12.07.2016

Parenting Advice.

While cleaning out my files I stumbled across somes notes taken from a Mom's Night back in 2012. The speaker was a seasoned mother who wanted to encourage and support young moms as they began their journey of raising their children in the fear of the Lord. Though I had already been a parent for 12 years, I was challenged by her entire message, and after reading the notes again tonight I am just as convicted to apply these nuggets of wisdom to my parenting now as I was then.
I hope you will find these as encouraging as I did!
  • Don't burden your children with your own ego.
  • Discipline your children with love - not your pride.
  • Train for, require, and expect first time obedience. If you do not, you are giving your children a chance to sin ... one, two, three more times. Do not cause them to stumble.
  • Do not tolerate mean teasing or picking on one another. Create a home where everyone feels safe, secure, and appreciated.
  • Discipline in private.
  • Give clear standards for behavior and the consequence for disobedience before you go somewhere with your children. A football player knows the rules before he steps on the field. Your children should know the expectations you have for them before they are put into any given setting. Behavior standards at a wedding or a dinner party are much different than those at a park. Set them up for success, not failure.
  • Do not allow whining!
  • Let your Yes be YES and your No be NO. Do not let crying, whining, or begging change your mind when you have made a decision. Children need to be as content with the word 'no' as they are with the word 'yes.'
  • Learn to say No to social events. Your child will not be less successful or inept because she did not attend 14 birthday and skate parties each month.
  • Foster the feeling that HOME is as satisfying as going out. Let your home be enough.
  • Discipline for attitudes - not mistakes.
  • BE THERE. (Deuteronomy 6:6) We cannot train our children in the ways of the Lord when we are not with our children. Your presence is what provides security, comfort, and consistency in your child's life.
  • Discipline does not always have to be harsh. Create natural consequences for sinful actions. The child leaves dirty clothes all over their floor? Take the clothes and put them in a bag. When she has no clean clothes, she will understand. She won't brush and floss her teeth? Let her pay for the filling. She will not speak to you respectfully? She does not get to have time with her friends. Your children keep arguing and fighting with one another? Have them walk around the backyard holding hands until they are kind. 
  • Overlook childish mistakes.
  • Discipline with confidence - not disgust.
  • Discipline a toddler quickly and move on with your day. Stop everything to talk to your child/teen.
  • Teenagers need as much attention and affection as a toddler. Do not miss the opportunity to pour into them! 
  • SMILE at your children. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Play. "Your smile should be the regular landscape of your child's life."
The behavior of our children is seen by everyone. Your family, your parenting, your children ... they are a living testimony of your walk with the Lord. Do not underestimate this truth! 

Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. 
Proverbs 20:11

12.06.2016

Silence really is golden - Scripture says so!

Today was interesting because I woke up without a voice!
I caught the head cold that has made itself at home here in the Eastman house for the past two weeks and went to bed with a sore throat. After a sleepless night of coughing and discomfort, I woke up to find that my mouth could not express what my mind wanted to say.
As the day wore on, I was able to accomplish voicing about three words out of ten, but by evening - nothing but a whisper.

Spending an entire day in (almost) silence made me wonder what Scripture has to say about the subject. Turns out - it says quite a bit and is almost always connected to self-control. This is not an exhaustive list, just the verses that impacted me most.

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. Proverbs 17:28

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Proverbs 11:12

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God
James 1:19

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11

Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. Proverbs 13:3

When words are many, sin is not absent, but whoever restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19  


I think the most interesting thing about these verses is how the Lord strings silence to wisdom.
If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and wisdom is found when we speak less and listen more, then this verse needs to be my daily prayer.
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3

Convicting QUOTE.


If any occupation or amusement or association is found to hinder our communion with God or our enjoyment of spiritual things - then it must be abandoned. 
Whatever I cannot do for God's glory - must be avoided! 
~ Arthur Pink

Quote.


The depths of our misery
can never fall below the depths of God's mercy.


12.03.2016

The right question.


A cheerful heart has a continual feast! Proverbs 15:15

Dennis brought these bright, beautiful flowers home for me to enjoy last week, and every time I looked at them, I felt happy. Not only do I love the color pink, I love when the color is reflected in nature - a work of God's own hands. What is it about stems and petals that can bring such joy? The first word that came to mind was CHEERFUL!

cheer·ful
adjective
- noticeably happy and optimistic
synonyms: happy, jolly, merry, bright, glad, sunny, joyful, joyous, lighthearted, in good spirits, in high spirits, sparkling, bubbly, exuberant, buoyant, ebullient, elated, gleeful
- causing happiness by its nature or appearance
synonyms: pleasant, attractive, agreeable, cheering, bright, sunny, happy, friendly, welcoming

What a terrific definition!
And a worthy pursuit.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, which means it comes directly from God and fills us up when we are fully yielded to Him. If we are filled with joy on the inside, it will be evident on the outside.
A happy heart makes the face cheerful ... Proverbs 15:13

If our facial expressions, attitude, and demeanor exhibit cheerfulness and joy, it will cause others to wonder ...  "Why are you always smiling?" "What makes you so happy?" "How come you are able to find joy in difficult situations?"
And then we can smile even more broadly and answer,
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.
My heart leaps for joy
and with my song I praise Him. Psalm 28:7

Thank You, Lord, for using something as simple and beautiful as a flower to remind me that a cheerful heart can draw others to You because it is YOU who shines through the countenance of the believer. We are commanded to "always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us," and a cheerful face and a joyful spirit will be the catalyst for others to ask the question in the first place. Teach me to always choose JOY - because it reflects YOU.

11.30.2016

This and that.

Did everyone else know today is November 30th? Which means tomorrow is December 1st?
I had NO idea.
We do not decorate for Christmas until the last day of November, but having everything pulled down from the attic, sorted and ready to go is much more helpful than forgetting it altogether! Sheesh.
Everyone pitched in, and by 5pm the decorating was done. (I am a minimalist for Christmas just as I am in everyday life, so there is not much to do.)
The older boys are over the "magic" of Christmas, but the littles LOVE it. They want to look at every single ornament, ooh and aah over the nativity pieces, and hang the stockings by the fireplace. So - they do! And they enjoy every minute.
Josiah, Isaiah, Ellie and I are currently curled up on the couch with cozy blankets watching White Christmas. A family favorite!

A daughter of our friends had a Sweet 16 party, so I snapped some photos of the boys with their friends Brian and Bradley.
After a normal photo they started posing and said, "Let's take an 'album cover' photo."
Oh my, how they made me laugh!
I love this shot. Especially in black and white.
Later Caleb told me, "I blew the photo shoot, Mom. I was supposed to be 'serious.'" HA! I love his smile!


~~ We held a family meeting on Sunday to discuss how we wanted to "do" Christmas. Everyone voted to draw names and purchase one gift for whomever was chosen. We set a spending limit, and each person put three items on their "wishlist." And then we had an idea - to add an Act of Service! We each wrote one or two things we would appreciate having someone do for us .... chores for the week, a car wash, a game night, a date ... and then the giver can choose what he/she would like to do for their person. (That was my favorite part.)
This has been a radical year for our family with the Lord placing such an intense burden on our heart for orphan care. We talked about what we have seen, what we know, the needs within our church body, our city, and around the world, and we all agreed we just cannot spend money on "things" when there are so many who are lacking the most basic necessities of life.
It was a very sweet conversation for me to witness as a mom, and I praised the Lord for giving us children who willingly sacrifice the little comforts of life for the benefit of others. I pray this will increase as they grow and that the Lord will keep them continually aware of the hurts and struggles of others so they can then take the next step - and do something about it.
It's going to be a great Christmas!

~~~ Speaking of Orphan care - exciting things are happening!
- One of our families officially adopted their daughter on November 13.
1163 days in foster care, and now she has a Forever Family! The emotion shining from their faces in the photos is absolutely beautiful. I was unable to join them in the courtroom, but I looked at every detail in each of the photos and cried tears of joy with them. Adoption is biblical and beautiful because God adopted US.
As my sis-in-law said, "You cannot work with those families and be immune to the calling, can you?"
Nope! Not a chance. And once you know them, you don't want to be immune! Watching them live out pure and undefiled religion is inspiring, convicting, and encouraging, and for me personally - I just can't get enough!
- We have another family who is now officially certified for foster care and waiting for their first placement.
- One of my best friends just landed on the other side of the world to meet her new son! They have been waiting for months to get the "OK" to fly over, meet him, and finalize the adoption, and now they are there begging the Lord to find favor on them so they can fly home WITH their son instead of having to come home and fly back again in a few weeks. Every day he stays in the orphanage he is at risk, and they just want to scoop him up out of the crib and bring him HOME.
Oh, how I wish I could have stowed away in her luggage to experience this with her! I told her, "I could be your scribe! I will follow you around capturing everything - sights, sounds, emotions - and share them with the world!" She laughed and said she would be thrilled to have me as her personal scribe. Next time, Lord? I am confident there will be a next time!

~~~ I cannot express how thankful I am to be healthy again. A week of physical pain and "blech" is not fun, but it certainly makes you appreciate feeling GOOD!
I tried to accomplish something worthwhile every day, but most of the hours were about survival.
Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were great! They never complained and tried to make me as comfortable as they could.
And, they LOVED having freedom!
Just about every morning they dragged their mattresses out to the living room and used them as props. Boats, ramps, islands ... they had a grand time using their imaginations. This photo shows them playing their favorite mattress game:
Mattress Jump.
The goal of the game is to jump to the other mattress without smashing into the sibling flying toward them.
I knew there was a great chance I would end up sitting in the ER waiting to have stitches sewn into a chin or forehead, but when you barely have enough energy to think, let alone be an active parent, the risk just seems worth it. <giant grin>
I do appreciate their creativity!

My cousin and her family were in town for a few days, but Dennis and the littles were the only Eastmans who were able to see them.
I was in bed until the day they departed, and the older boys were at a youth event the night they were available to connect.
That did not bother Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie one bit, however!
They enjoyed a scrumptious meal at In-n-Out, and then spent a couple hours swimming in the hotel pool with their cousins - and they had a blast!
They RAN into the house screaming and cheering when they returned and gave me a minute-by-minute replay of their time together.
I'm so glad they have that memory!


~~~ I hope the month of November has been a wonderful time of praise and thanksgiving for you! I find it fitting that Thanksgiving ushers us into the season of Advent. What a precious time to focus on our Savior, remembering the sacrifice He made, leaving the heavenly realm to become a helpless baby - for one purpose - to do the will of His Father. And the final act of obedience was to die on a cross - for US.
Thank You, Lord, for this indescribable gift!

Reality - and fun.


 The image selected for "photo of the day."


Aaaaand ... the others!



There is nothing simple or quick about an Eastman photo shoot.
But it's FUN!

Christmas traditions - What are we doing? And why?

EXCELLENT questions to think about as we begin the Christmas season.

Evaluating Our Traditions
How we approach our own man-made traditions can help us gauge whether or not our hearts are near or far from God this Christmas. When our traditions help our hearts to draw near to the living God, they are a tool functioning rightly. But when our traditions distract our hearts from the true purpose of Christmas — adoring Christ the Lord — then it is time to reevaluate and perhaps to repent.

So, if our primary goal at Christmas time is to worship Christ from a pure heart, which traditions deserve to be kept or started? And which deserve to be trashed?

Each family will need to determine what works best. Some complicated or time-consuming traditions may be worth keeping, if they increase our joy in Christ and help us spread that joy to others. Perhaps other traditions that we take for granted serve more as distractions. Here are questions regarding our traditions that can help us evaluate our hearts this Christmas.
- Does this tradition help us to value Jesus as the Greatest Gift ever given, or does it turn our hearts toward seeking lesser gifts at the expense of celebrating the Giver?
- Does this tradition cause us to spend an inordinate amount of time, energy, or money on ourselves, and in doing so deplete our joy in Christ?

- Does this tradition increase stress and decrease holiness in our family, or does it increase our joy in God and the relationships we have with those around us?

- Does this tradition turn our hearts in thanksgiving to the God who made us and gave us all things through Christ?

- Does this tradition help us to spread the love and joy of Christ and the gospel to fellow believers and to neighbors who don’t yet know Christ? If not, could it?

- Do my family’s cumulative traditions allow me time for serving and bringing joy to those in the church or neighborhood who are hurting, suffering loss, or lonely during this season?


(Written by Kristin Tabb, Desiring God)

11.28.2016

It's perfect.

This has been a long month. Much emotion and struggle, within and without.
And life doesn't grind to a halt just because we need an extra moment to breathe. The sun rises, the hours roll by, and the sun sets whether the day has been filled with joyous moments, sorrow, or a combination of the two.
Days wrapped in joy are a blessing, without a doubt, but they rarely push us to the feet of the Savior like a day wrapped in frustration, disappointment, and heartache. Those days make me crave my Bible. Even if I don't have the energy to read it, I want to touch it - just to know it's there. Without reading a word, I know what's inside. Wisdom, grace, forgiveness, mercy, love, promises ... truth. Every single thing I need for life.
I do not want to live in Job's world, but if I am honest, I seek Christ and desire Him more when circumstances are beyond my control and I can barely keep my head above water. And even better, those are the times He holds a spotless mirror before my face and shows me my sin. When life is good and everything is rosy, I don't feel the urgency to seek Him, let alone sit still long enough to look into a mirror.
I love the good days.
But I need the bad days.

These two verses have been consuming my thoughts the past few days. I've also been singing them because they were made into a worship song when I was in high school. Sometimes I just think about the words, and other times I am begging the Lord to remove every last bit of filth and ugliness and sin from my heart.
I decided to look up different versions to see how the words changed, and I was glad I did. Though not a drastic difference, the word choices change the tone of the verses, and I like having all of them before my eyes.

Psalm 139: 23, 24 
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting. NKJV

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,

And lead me in the everlasting way. NASB


Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting! ESV

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting. NIV


Search me.
Know me.
Try me.
See me.
Lead me.
What a perfect way to pray!

Good days and bad, Lord, please never stop searching my heart and mind so You can continually remove the wicked, hurtful, grievous, and offensive ways that are found within. I would rather feel the poke of the shovel to scoop away a small weed of sin than the sting of the axe as it cuts through roots that have grown thick and deep. Though I don't want Job's life, I do want to be a woman who cries, "Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?" And then readily submits to Your will, with joy.

11.26.2016

Quote.


The message of biblical Christianity is not "God loves me, period," 
as if we were the object of our own faith.
The message of biblical Christianity is "God loves me so that I might make Him - His ways, His salvation, His glory, and His greatness - known among all nations."
God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around Him. 
We are not the end of the Gospel; God is."
~David Platt

11.24.2016

Thanksgiving!


A wonderful Scripture to inspire thankfulness, gratitude, and JOY ...

"Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise Him enough?"
Psalm 106:2

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!

11.22.2016

Mine will end ... theirs does not.


This was my view today.

A(nother) day with a fever and aches so, everything happened here ... on my bed.
Prayer, reading, games, a science video, snacks, and rest.
Moms do not have the luxury of hiding under the covers when they are ill, as much as we would like to do so. The house chores can be left unattended, but the people cannot. (My people, at least!) Because of this truth, we have to get creative. I'm not sure how other moms do it, but I find that bringing them all into the same small space reduces the ability for complete anarchy.
Today, I organized each activity and then curled up in a ball to rest until they needed me again.
I was proud of them! They knew how poorly I felt, so they did their best to work together and
"be kind" as Isaiah had prayed earlier.

Thankfully, Micah was home until the late morning, so he took Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie on a long walk which ended with a treat of hot chocolate at a local coffee house.
How precious were those 90 minutes!
Thank you, Micah!

In the late afternoon, I asked Josiah to grab my camera so I could snap this photo.
I wanted to remember this day.
Every time I looked at my children, I thought of my friends who suffer from chronic illnesses. I had a conversation with one of them just last week discussing what daily life looks like for a mom who is in constant pain. While they can accomplish many things, they cannot accomplish everything, and they hate it. Guilt plagues them as they watch their husbands and children "pick up the slack," while they are equally grateful for the support.

I feel like the Lord allowed me to understand a little bit of their struggle this week.
Four days of canceled events, unprepared meals, older children helping care for the younger ones, school lessons directed from a pillow, and little interaction happening between me and Dennis because I am in pain or sleeping when he gets home left me feeling like I am disappointing everyone. 
The thing is, I know my illness will come to an end. Before long, our house and our family life will be functioning as usual.
My friends, however, never know from one day to the next if it will be a 'good day' or 
a 'manage-the-house-from-bed day.'

They say we can never understand someone until we walk a mile in her shoes.
Today, I felt like I laced up my sneakers and took my first steps.
I am thankful that pain and fatigue and discomfort are not my 'normal,' but I am grieved with the knowledge that for many, many women - it is.

Lord, thank You for letting me experience a very small piece of what my friends suffer on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. It is clear that Your grace alone is what sustains them when they are at their weakest ... just as You promise when you say, "My grace is SUFFICIENT for you." Thank You for being such a faithful God who meets our needs, even in the silly ways and the strange. A meal here, a gift card there, a friend who invites their children to play, and husbands who willingly choose to serve their wives when their wives are not able to serve them. Burden my heart to pray for these friends when they need it most, and remind me of this week, so I can offer encouragement based on understanding. And if I may be so bold, as You invite us to do in Scripture when we come before Your throne ... HEAL them, Father! Remove the illnesses, the diseases, the pain, and the suffering. Make them whole. I ask this with personal desire, but according to Your will. Heal them, or use their continued suffering for Your glory and their sanctification. They are Your daughters, and they love You. Thank You for loving them first.

11.20.2016

I want to be thankful FIRST - and ALWAYS.

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

Spending 24 hours in bed with illness has a way of making the mind as lethargic as the body. Tonight, I forced myself out of bed, and the Lord used some hymns to clear away the fog. At first, I just listened to the music, but soon found myself singing along - and smiling.
During the final chorus of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" ...
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me
... He reminded me that I can find JOY in every circumstance, including illness.

And it made me wonder.
How many times do I fail to give thanks, knowing that every circumstance, no matter how difficult, is part of God's plan to refine me and make me more like Him?

It's easy to give thanks for the blessings.
Marriage, a new baby, a job promotion, good health, vacations, a faithful friend.
But we are commanded to give thanks when our spouse is unkind, a child is wayward, we are treated poorly at work, our health is failing, the bank account runs dry, and we are forgotten or ignored.
"Give thanks in ALL circumstances ..."

Lord, teach me to thank You FIRST when life is hard. Remind me to rejoice in You ALWAYS. Every day is one that You have made, so I must rejoice and be glad in it - even when it's not perfect. I want to be that kind of Christian, Lord. I'm not there yet, but I want to be. Fill me with gratitude and make me quick to thank You for all things - the beautiful and the difficult - so that my thoughts, attitude, and perspective will constantly be drawn heavenward, and focused on Christ. 

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; 
let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation! 
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; 
let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! 
For the Lord is a great God, 
and a great King above all gods. 
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; 
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! 
For He is our God, 
and we are the people of His pasture, 
and the sheep of His hand.
Psalm 95

11.19.2016

He meets our needs.

Yesterday, the Lord provided a tremendous source of encouragement for my weary heart.
After sitting in a coffee shop for an hour, I stood up to refill my drink and discovered our Pastor's wife sitting across the room. We were so far from home it surprised each of us to see one another! We laughed, explained why we were there, and then engaged in a brief conversation. I had no intention of burdening her with my struggles, but just as we were about to say good-bye I blurted out, "Please pray for me!" I gave a thirty-second explanation, she spoke some words of encouragement, and then reached into her bag and pulled out a well-worn book - Streams in the Desert. She opened to the page she had read earlier that morning and read it to me, right there in the middle of the room, and the words refreshed me like cold water in the dry throat of a thirsty man.
A Divine appointment - with a willing participant and an incredibly grateful recipient.

As I drove home, I remembered that we own the same book, so I pulled it off the shelf as soon as I walked into the house. I did not have time to read it until this afternoon, and after flipping through a few pages I found an entry that made me smile because it described our coffee shop interaction perfectly.

                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
II Corinthians 1:6,7

Are there not some in your circle to whom you naturally betake yourself in times of trial and sorrow? They always seem to speak the right word, to give the very counsel you are longing for; you do not realize, however, the cost which they had to pay ere they became so skillful in binding up the gaping wounds and drying tears. 
But if you were to investigate their past history you would find that they have suffered more than most. They have watched the slow untwisting of some silver cord on which the lamp of life hung. They have seen the golden bowl of joy dashed to their feet, and its contents spilt. They have stood by ebbing tides, and drooping gourds, and noon sunsets; but all this has been necessary to make them the nurses, the physicians, the priests of men. 
The boxes that come from foreign climes are clumsy enough; but they contain spices which scent the air with the fragrance of the Orient. So suffering is rough and hard to bear; but it hides beneath it discipline, education, possibilities, which not only leave us nobler, but perfect us to help others.
Do not fret, or set your teeth, or wait doggedly for the suffering to pass; but get out of it all you can, both for yourself and for your service to your generation, according to the will of God.
                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank You, Lord, for meeting my need so perfectly through the encouraging words and comfort of a sister in Christ.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply - and how delightful is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23

11.17.2016

Quote. On PRIDE.


Remember that pride is the worst viper in the heart - and the greatest disturber of the soul's peace and sweet communion with Christ. 
Pride was the first sin that ever was. 
Pride is the most difficult sin to root out. 
It is the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts. 
It often insensibly creeps into the midst of religion, and sometimes under the disguise of humility! 
~ Jonathan Edwards

11.15.2016

Every day - it's NEW.


But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:21-26


Praise the Lord for such promises!

When we feel battered and bruised, weary and worn, disappointed and discouraged ...
the love of the Lord is real - and constant.
His mercies go on forever.
His faithfulness knows no bounds.

No matter how long the night lasts, the sun always rises.
And tucked into the morning rays - HOPE shines new and bright.

Quote.


What the heart loves best - the mind studies most.

~ Richard Sibbes (Puritan)

11.14.2016

Orphan Care is a Spiritual Battle - and WORTH THE FIGHT!

Yesterday we celebrated our first Orphan Care Sunday with our church body.
What a day!

Our goal for the day was AWARENESS.
Very few were aware of the Orphan Care ministry when they entered the sanctuary, but everyone was aware when they left!
As someone once said, "Ignorance is bliss, but once you are aware - you are accountable." I love that!
One of the quotes in the fost/adopt world is, "You can't unhear what you've heard, and you can't unsee what you've seen."
Yesterday, people heard facts, statistics, and the truth about foster care and adoption ... none of which can be unheard. Four of our families painted a beautifully realistic picture of what life looks like as fost/adopt parents by sharing their personal testimonies. They did not make it look glamorous. They made it look REAL. Even with the heartache, the frustrations, and having to fight for their children every.single.day, they do it willingly and passionately because they know these children have no voice, so they MUST speak for them.
I was proud of our families. They were vulnerable, and because of their transparency, hearts were touched, and seeds were planted. Now, we pray the Holy Spirit will do the watering so the Lord can produce the fruit!

I think the highlight of the morning services was hearing people share their stories with us at the ministry table. We met men and women who had fostered and adopted children and wanted to share the joys and successes of what their children are doing now. We met people who are passionate about orphan care and want to support young families as they begin the long journey of finding the child God has prepared for them. We met couples who have a passion for adoption but don't know where to start. I met a woman who was part of the foster system as a child who wanted to thank us for what we are doing because after being bounced from home to home, she was placed with a minister and his wife - and found Jesus. And THAT is the heart of orphan care. The Gospel!
Children need a home, safety, security, and love. But more than anything - they need a Savior.

In the evening service, we had a small panel of our fost/adopt families answer questions about the day to day realities of caring for foster children, and once again they were honest and forthcoming about the difficulties and the joys. They don't want to be called saints, they don't want to be put on pedestals. Every one of them would tell you, "There is nothing special about us!" Their stories are different, the details are unique, but there is one thing they have in common: each one responded in obedience when God said, "Go rescue that child!" They laid aside their comfort and their plans and followed God wherever He led them. They have sacrificed much and suffered apathy, rejection, and neglect by those around them, but they keep plowing ahead to rescue one child after another because that is what God has called them to do. And because they obey - He blesses their families. What a delight and privilege it is to be invited to walk beside them. I have learned what 'compassion in action' looks like, and what it means to be the 'hands and feet of Jesus' by observing these families. Their calling is intense, their days are difficult, and the spiritual battle is fierce - but they dismiss all of it because they know they are putting Jesus before the hearts and minds of these children every day - and that truth makes every battle, every fight, and the entire war WORTH IT.

Father, thank You for such a wonderful day!
You orchestrated every detail, and Your truth about the church's responsibility for "visiting orphans in their distress" will not return void. You have drawn these orphan care families to our church body with purpose, and You have a plan for them - and for us. Show us what it is, Lord, and may we be faithful to walk forward in obedience as we speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Your heart for children is incredibly large, and filled with compassion and grace. Please, make our hearts look like Yours. 

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3, 4

11.11.2016

This and that.

The team has completed another successful week of teacher training in Cambodia!
They worked hard, as always, making lessons come to life, supported and encouraged administrators, built relationships with staff and students, and enjoyed the hospitality of the Cambodian people.
Dennis has taken to traveling around the world like a duck takes to water. He appreciates other countries and cultures for their antiquity, historical significance, natural splendor, and the open arms of the people -
but Cambodia is the only country that has his heart.
How thankful we are that the Lord chooses to use Dennis for Kingdom work all around the world!

~~~ We have a fun weekend ahead of us! The older boys have a youth event, Guys Night, and a birthday party to attend, Caleb plays in his championship flag football game tonight, two of my girls are coming over for a Girl's Night on Saturday, and Dennis returns home late Sunday night. WooHoo!

The highlight, however, is our Orphan Care Sunday!
Each morning service will highlight the ministry, and we will have our own table/tent outside on the patio to talk to people who are interested in fost/adopt or want to know how they can serve those who are already in the fight for the hearts and souls of these children.
Our Sunday night event is completely dedicated to Orphan Care. We will hear testimonies from families actively in the fight, and watch an excellent film - Rescued - which lays out the biblical model for adoption within the church. My greatest desire for the night is that our orphan care families will be encouraged, strengthened, and stirred up to continue the fight becuase they are surrounded by believers who support what they do and want to show that support.
Lord! Please provide this for them!

This is going to be a TERRIFIC weekend! (According to our plans, anyway. Heaven only knows what the Lord has planned for us!)

~~~ An annual tradition for the boys.
Homeschool Magic Mountain Day!
The admission price is cut in half, the park is almost empty, dozens of their friends partake in the event, and they spend six hours twisting, turning, and screaming while plunging toward the earth from the peak of a roller coaster.
Good times had by all!
This is their fifth year, and they have no intention of stopping until the are forced to do so.
I'm glad they have these memories!

~~~ I found this quote a few days ago, and while it made me chuckle at first, I love the simple truth contained in the words.
God made us to sleep so that every day He can remind us that He manages things just fine without us. ~ Kevin De Young
Isn't that FANTASTIC?
Excellent theology summed up in one simple sentence!

Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie are having a GREAT time in their Biola Youth classes.
8-week clinics each semester: Science, Art, and P.E.
They made roller coasters in art class last week and spent about three minutes (each) explaining the ride, why they chose to make it that way, and how people would get sick if they rode on it. HA!
I am thankful for people who use their strengths and talents for others to enjoy. I need them!


When Dennis traveled when all our children were under the age of ten, it was difficult. I would "borrow" the husbands of friends for a couple of hours to provide the male presence/authority that is needed in a home. Especially a home with five boys.
It worked well and would hold them over for at least three days before I needed to borrow another male of our acquaintance.
Now, Micah and Luke provide this!
Though they are not adults and have no actual authoritative power in the home, they definitely provide the masculine presence that we need. Their height and size alone is enough to remind the littles that they need to submit! <grin> It has been such a blessing to have this missing piece filled in by my boys while Dennis serves the Lord on another continent - and I am grateful!
Yesterday I asked the boys to plan a Game Night with Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie, and they did a great job creating an atmosphere of FUN! Our family life is far from perfect, and we would never have been chosen as models for a Norman Rockwell painting, but "our way" works for us. Last night I was reminded of this truth ... and smiled from ear to ear while I listened to them interact with one another.
Thank You, Lord, for these GIFTS!

~~~ The older boys and I started a tradition a few years ago.
Whenever Dennis travels overseas, we plan a Movie Marathon Date Night.
We usually choose a trilogy or a movie with sequels, but this year we went with light-hearted comedies - which was much appreciated after a long week!
The boys choose the smorgasbord (usually containing enough food to feed a dozen people), electronics are banned, and we spend the entire night watching, eating, and interacting with the movies and each other.
Always an entertaining and memorable night!
I am grateful, so grateful, that my teenage sons choose to spend time with me - and enjoy it!
Thanks, guys. I had a GREAT time with you! You are fun dates!

~~~ Happy Friday, everyone!
I pray this weekend will bring you the rest and refreshment you need, and with your renewed energy you will find someone else who needs refreshment and offer this gift of beauty and comfort: "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24

11.10.2016

Encouraging and challenging AFFIRMATION.

How fitting that this would arrive in my inbox today, barely 12 hours after my Last Post describing my desire to be a "fierce lover of God" in which I wrote: It is the desire of my heart to be a woman such as this. But it will not just "happen." It requires daily surrender. Constant examination of heart and mind. A desire for holiness more than happiness, and an all-consuming knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL.
I love when the Lord does this! As if His instruction and conviction are not enough in the original delivery, He affirms His orders to drive the point home even further. (And, probably to make sure we are listening!)

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

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

If God has called you to be truly like Jesus - He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience, that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In many ways, He seems to let other believers do things which He will not let you do.

Others who seem to be very religious and useful, may push themselves up to be admired, and scheme to carry out their plans - but you cannot. If you attempt it - you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes - but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so - He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or in having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries - but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold - a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward - while keeping you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit in you, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great - but He will keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit - but He will make you work and toil without others knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done. This to teach you the message of the Cross and humility.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time - which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own - and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

If you absolutely give yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other Christian people say and do many things which you cannot.

However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life - then you will have found the vestibule of Heaven, the high calling of God.


(George Watson, 1845-1924)

11.09.2016

I want to be like her.

A woman recently requested our hand-written miscarriage notes for her best friend, and in her request, she included a paragraph giving details of the miscarriage, and a beautiful description of her friend. I smiled as I read it, praising God for providing someone who desired to minister to this hurting woman in a way that mattered.
There was one line that grabbed my attention and has been dominating my thoughts for days.
She wrote, "She is a fierce lover of the Lord ..."

A fierce lover of the Lord.

How does someone earn such a title?

Her speech,
attitude,
actions,
responses,
self-control,
biblical obedience,
faith and trust in God,
ability to forgive wrongdoing,
ability to love her enemies,
compassion for the hurting,
passion for the unsaved,
sincerity of worship,
godly humility ...
each of these character qualities must be a tangible reflection of her Savior and so consume her that people cannot tell where she ends - and He begins.

How did she become such a woman?
There is only one way.
And He answered, “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.” Deuteronomy 6:5

If we love the Lord with ALL of our heart/soul/mind/strength - we are totally incapable of loving ourselves. Looks, race, intelligence, our 'rights', bank accounts, accomplishments, ideologies, opinions, preferences, and personal desires have no space available on the throne of our hearts when it is filled with the presence of the Savior.

John Calvin said, "Man's heart, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols!"
He also said, "The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood works, and is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy - that it often dupes itself!"
And he's right.
Idol-crushing must be a daily discipline in the life of a believer.
We cannot love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength when we are busy loving ourselves first, and best.

"She is a fierce lover of the Lord ..."

It is the desire of my heart to be a woman such as this. But it will not just "happen." It requires daily surrender. Constant examination of heart and mind. A desire for holiness more than happiness, and an all-consuming knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL.

Oh, Lord, how much I have to learn and how much I need to grow. Transform me and renew my mind so any desire for Self will disappear, and be forever replaced with a desire for only YOU.

11.07.2016

A fitting QUOTE for today.

The whole system of my politics is summed up in this one verse, "The Lord reigns! Let the nations tremble!" Psalm 99:1

The times look awfully dark indeed; and as the clouds grow thicker - the stupidity of the nation seems proportionally to increase. If the Lord had not a remnant here, I would have very formidable apprehensions. But He loves His children; some are sighing and mourning before Him, and I am sure He hears their sighs, and sees their tears. I trust there is mercy in store for us at the bottom; but I expect a shaking time before things get into a right channel - before we are humbled, and are taught to give Him the glory.

The state of the nation and the state of the churches - both are deplorable! Those who should be praying - are disputing and fighting among themselves! Alas! how many professors are more concerned for the mistakes of government - than for their own sins!

"Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!" Revelation 19:6

~ John Newton

Wedding fun!

What a wonderful time we had celebrating with Sam and Tiffany!
The wedding ceremony was sweet, thoughtful, and focused solely on Scripture, highlighting what God created marriage to be between a man and a woman.
The reception was lively, full of activity, and a perfect blend of Chinese tradition and American culture.
Sadly, Dennis was unable to attend the wedding since he is currently in Cambodia, so Danielle agreed to be my date for the evening - and we had a blast together!

We enjoyed a ten-course meal. TEN COURSES! Every morsel was Chinese cuisine except for the bottles of Coke and Sprite sitting on each table. (a fun touch!)
The food was both delicious and interesting, some of the items requiring more adventurous eaters than I claim to be. Bird's Nest Soup was the most talked about dish (look it up!), and Danielle consumed the lobster head after the rest of the table passed on that particular crustacean piece on the platter.
Sam and Tiffany warned me about the menu months ago because they know I have a very boring and texture-sensitive palate. They found great humor in watching me try to keep a 'poker face' when describing the various foods. Then, a few weeks ago, Tiffany looked at me and said, "I just want you to know, we have a short list of who to watch when the food is presented, and YOU are in the top five!" HA HA! Talk about pressure! They will be proud of me because I willing tried at least one thing during each course. Woohoo!


Karen is one of my girls ... and we were together during the entire wedding event. (Her boyfriend Brett was with us too, but I have no proof since my camera was not working at the beginning of the night. So bummed!) I love spending time with this woman!
Meaghan is a delight to me ... and she made me laugh during the entire reception without saying one word. Her face speaks VOLUMES, and she is hilarious!
Mary ... her face makes me laugh every time I look at this photo. The Lord drew us together through the Orphan Care ministry and I am thankful! When I sent her this photo with the words, "Look at your FACE!" she wrote back and said, "I am afraid of you! lol." Crazy woman. She has long, gorgeous hair that flows for days, so I grabbed it and used it as a scarf for this photo. Hmm ... maybe THAT's why she made the face!


Sam and Tiffany had a stage set up where they could take pictures with each guest. A great idea!
Danielle and I hopped up right away, but her phone camera could not handle the professional lights, so we have this poorly lit yet unique photo with the bride and groom. And I love it!


Three of the original COMMITTED girls!
Linsey ~ Danielle ~ Janice
I love that we get to celebrate so many weddings TOGETHER!


Carter and Kelsey ~ Lauren
Kelsey was in COMMITTED until she married Carter, and Dennis and I met with them as a couple for their first year of marriage. It is a joy to see them thriving as husband and wife. And now her sister Lauren is part of our group! 
Nolan and Greg - Dennis would have taken a photo with these two right away, so I stepped in for him. Even from six feet away, their table kept me laughing!
Christy and Jeff - Jeff is full of more energy than any human I know, and Christy compliments him with her gentle and quiet spirit.
How wonderful it is to be a part of a church body who comes together for moments such as these.


All night Danielle and I kept saying, "Sam is a HUSBAND! We are so EXCITED!"

The Lord drew them together, and He has a purpose for their marriage. 
You cannot help but smile when you are with them, so I am confident the Lord will be glorified and many people will be encouraged while walking beside them in the years to come.
Congratulations, Sam and Tiffany!
Let married life BEGIN!

Sam and Tiffany are MARRIED!

"Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God." Ruth 1

An intimate group of guests waited for the ceremony to begin, and the mood of the sanctuary was
light and joyful.
The mothers lit the candles to signal the start of the ceremony.
Grandparents were escorted in and seated in places of honor.
The wedding party entered, the bridesmaids carrying lovely bouquets of roses, and the flower girls stealing the show as they properly made their way down the isle in sparkling white dresses.
Sam stood in the front with controlled energy as he waited to see his bride.
Finally, the double doors opened, and Tiffany stepped forward with her precious father. It was her greatest desire that he be able to walk her down the aisle, and many tears filled the eyes of the guests while we watched his frail frame escort his only daughter toward the man she was going to marry.
The pastor asked in Cantonese, "Who gives this woman to this man?" and Mr. Tan willingly surrendered his precious girl to our sweet Sam.

The ceremony was thoughtful, tender, and filled with truth. Their pastor chose fantastic word pictures and painted a wonderful image of what marriage is supposed to look like, as well as what it is not supposed to look like. One of my favorites was, "Do not try to make your marriage look like anyone else's. Your marriage will be unique because each of YOU are unique. Embrace your differences and your strengths and use them to glorify God. Don't ever compare your marriage to others. What God has purposed for another couple is not what He has purposed for you." 
What wonderfully sound, discerning, and wise advice! When he finished his charge to the bride and groom I looked at my friend and said, "I want to do marriage counseling with him!" He spoke with such gentleness, yet his words and imagery were powerful and right.

Sam is a man who defies description. Until you meet him you cannot explain him. But once you know him, you never want to let him go.
Tiffany is a tender-hearted, gentle, intelligent woman who is incredibly faithful and will serve Sam and love him well all the days of her life.
Together? There is no telling what they can do! 
And I think all who know them would agree ... not only is at honor to be their friends, it is even better to be their brothers and sisters in Christ, for they continually stir us up to love and good deeds and encourage us to know and love God more.

Lord, thank You for the beauty of marriage. Thank You for bringing Sam and Tiffany together to accomplish what You have planned for them. You have done amazing things through them as individuals, and You are not finished yet! Use them, Lord, for each other, and for the Kingdom. They balance each other perfectly, and You knew they needed each other. Be ever-present in their marriage, increase their love, and solidify their commitment to one another. Thank you for Sam and Tiffany, Lord. How we love them!

Quote.

Whatever happens in this election has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. 
Whatever happens in this country has no bearing on the advancement of the kingdom of God. 
He will build His church. 
Rulers and nations come and go. 
We live in an alien land. 
Our world is fallen. 
But Gods plans and purposes will prevail
~ John MacArthur