Such a life!

Rarely am I granted the privilege of consuming an entire biography in one day, but illness afforded me such an opportunity to do so with this treasure, and I am grateful!

Having long-admired her husband, I was eager to read about the life of the woman behind the man, and I was not disappointed. 

Susannah Spurgeon is a terrific model of what it looks like to serve your husband with faithful attention and affection, train your children to fear and love the Lord, and serve your Savior with passion and purpose. 

Understanding her makes me appreciate the godly preacher whom she loved with fervor all the more, and I am grateful the author dedicated time, energy, and enthusiasm to put her story into print.

Her great-great-granddaughter captures the essence of Susie in these two sentences:
"She was rooted in Christ, she abided in Him, and she made sure she went to Him in all situations. When there were good times, she gave Him the praise, and when there were trials, she fell on her knees before Him."

Oh, to be a Susannah! Firmly planted on the Rock of Ages and faithfully declaring His glory and goodness with every breath.

Thank You, Lord, for such a life!


Remembering my pain - to connect with theirs.

The day after I passed Baby L from my arms into those of her grandmother, a precious friend (and fellow foster mom) asked me, "How are you feeling about L leaving?"
A seemingly simple question, I thought, but when I started writing my response I was overwhelmed with sorrow. I had already walked through all of the "lasts" with Baby L since we had the privilege of knowing it was our last day with her, and I had already connected the sadness of saying goodbye to her with the death of our son Matthew. What I had not done, however, was figure out the "why."
Why were the two so inextricably linked?
Stillbirth and foster care.
The "loss" piece was obvious, but something was missing.

I knew I would feel deep emotion when Baby L left us, but I confess, I was completely surprised (dare I say blindsided?) by how much it mirrored the pain of losing Matthew. How could my heart ache so strongly for a baby I had known scarcely thirty days? How was I able to weep so sincerely when I knew she would be leaving us? Why did it hurt so much?

The old Michelle would have run from the pain. Distracted herself. Drowned her sorrows in 72 ounces of ice-cold Coke and giant bags of Goldfish crackers.
But this time? I refused to run. I sat right down in the middle of it and let myself feel.
It was hard, but it was good.
The emotion. The tears. The memories. The questions. The fears. The unknown. I invited it all in.
That is where the Lord met me. Right there in my mourning. And He answered the "why."

I need to remember. 
I need to remember the overwhelming sorrow that comes with losing a child.
I need to remember the darkness that accompanies grief. 
I need to remember the confusion, the fear, the "what ifs" and the "if only's."
I need to remember that even though people surround you, it feels like no one else "gets it."
I need to remember the feeling of helplessness and lack of control.
I need to remember so I can empathize with every birth mom who weeps because her child is in the arms of another. Including my own.

Without remembering my pain, I cannot connect with theirs.

Thank You, Lord, for revealing this truth! And thank You for not allowing Your children to be swallowed by sorrow, for You are a God who saves those who are crushed in spirit, and heals the brokenhearted. You let weeping last through the night, but You bring back JOY in the morning!

Interestingly … when I returned to the group home to unite Baby L with her grandmother, the social worker who witnessed the exchange shook my hand, held onto it tightly, stared at me for a long moment, and then he declared, “We will be calling you SOON. How many beds do you have open?”
I smiled and thought, “Is this how it will be, Lord? Grieving the loss of one baby while learning to love another? If so, YES!”
Serving in sorrow.
The best way to heal.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalms 126:5-6 


Our First Goodbye.

We knew we were entering a world of "goodbyes" when we became a foster family.
We knew they would be difficult, for when you say goodbye to someone you love, they carry a piece of your heart with them when they go.
It is not like losing someone to death.
But it is - a loss.

It has been an interesting internal struggle for me because the thought of giving up a foster baby evokes the same kind of emotion I felt when Matthew died.
I remember walking into the hospital room, seeing the baby bassinet, and weeping because I knew he would never be lying inside of it.
There were so many "nevers." I would never hear him cry, never nurse him, never hear him say, "Mommy."

Last night, in the quiet of the evening, my mind began thinking those same things about Baby L.
I will never see her standing in her crib in the morning, reaching for me to come and get her.
I will never get to hold her again.
I will never again see her gorgeous smile.
Hear her laugh.
Feel her hugs.
See her legs swinging from the highchair.
Hear her squealing with glee while splashing in the bathtub.
I will never look down at her anxious face as she reaches for me to pick her up, hold her, and quiet her fears.

She is gone.

And this is exactly how it is supposed to be.

The ache in my heart means I loved her well.
It would not hurt if I did not love.
Loving someone else's child is what we signed up for.
And I will do it again and again and again until there are no more babies who need a piece of my heart.

I thought we were going to be used to change the lives of each baby that entered our home, but the truth is - they are changing ours. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is the song that was playing when I brought Baby L home, and it is as fitting today, as I mourn the loss of her tiny footsteps in our house, as it was when I held her in my arms for the first time.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

All the earth will shout
Your praise
Our hearts will cry
These bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only


An amazing LIFE - an amazing MAN.

Every time I read a book I make a new friend.
When I read a biography/autobiography of a godly man or woman, I am pulled into a discipleship relationship that is wanted, appreciated, and thoroughly enjoyed.
And, every biography leads to another for the subject of each one gives credit for their personal passion and purpose to those who walked before them.
I LOVE it!
This book was no exception. Actually, it is not a book - but a printed version of his personal journal! Reading someone's private thoughts is a precious thing for it gives insight into who they truly are, and reading the thoughts of a man like Andrew Bonar was an honor and a joy.

As always, it would be impossible for me to sum up his life with a few quotes, and I would have to type out at least 200 pages of his journal to feel like I portrayed him accurately. But I do want to share some of the quotes that gripped me, creating a love for a man of God who lived a hundred years serving and praising God before I ever took a breath on this earth. I pray he will encourage you as he encouraged me!

"I ought to put into practice in common duties that saying, 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.' By the grace of God and the strength of His Holy Spirit I desire to lay down the rule not to speak to man until I have spoken with God; not to do anything with my hand till I have been upon my knees; not to read letters or papers until I have read something of the Holy Scriptures. I hope also to be able at 'cool of the day' to pray and meditate upon the name of the Lord." 

"Have often found of late the verse powerful, Psalm 37:4: 'Delight thyself.' The more I have been able to make God my chief joy the less do I feel in any way tormented with earthly desires, and I see myself surrounded with comforts."

"Tried this morning specially to pray against idols in the shape of my books and studies. These encroach upon my direct communion with God, and need to be watched."

After the birth of one of his daughters he writes, "I feel tonight as if I and all the house were lying down to rest amid mercies on every side, as if the fragrance of the Lord's special kindness were spreading through every room in the house, quietly ascending back to the Giver."

When his brother James was sick: "James is weaker, but lies in peace waiting the issue. Felt after speaking today how much may be effected by a very few words when the person is filled with the Holy Ghost. We can afford to be short."

"Reviewing the past, I see this fact in my life, worthy of continual admiration and thanks, that for more than thirty years I have never been shaken in my quiet resting on the Lord Jesus. I have been many, many times unhappy for a time, but never led to doubt my interest in the Lord Jesus. The Lord has never let my eyes close to the one foundation. He has kept me from mixing up my feeling with Christ's work. It has been all of grace, the doing of the Spirit who takes the things of Christ and shows them. Shall I not love the Holy Ghost with my whole heart?"

"The Falls of Niagara. Learnt there to stand still and wonder. Prayed over Isaiah 11:2, 3 very specially." 
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2, 3

In a note to his daughter he says, "Are you very thankful? You know the difference between gladness and thankfulness? Gladness looks at the kindness and takes it all; but thankfulness looks at the Giver, and love Him for it all."

"Our unwillingness is our inability."

"Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle."

He encouraged the sick, "Think upon the Lord when you can, and He will think upon you when you can't."

"A man is never safe in rebuking another if it does not cost him something to have to do it."

"It is a test of our progress in sanctification if we are willing to have our faults pointed out to us, without getting angry. Why should we take offense at being told we are not perfect?"

One speaking about the influence of Andrew Bonar: "His presence in a meeting acted at all times like a charm. As he came in, overflowing with brightness and kindliness, his progress, as he went from one to another shaking hands, could be traced by the ripple of light that passed over every face."

The closing paragraph of the biographical section of the book ends with this beautiful tribute.
"In great loving-kindness, God spared him the bitterness of being laid aside from his beloved work. Though feeble, voice and hand were still busy in the Master's service, when, at that Master's bidding, he left his work below for the ministry of the Upper Sanctuary, where still 'His servants serve Him.'" ❤

I will close with one of the most quoted Psalms in his journal, which is no surprise after reading of the all-consuming joy he possessed because of the sincere delight he enjoyed as a child of God.

Psalm 103
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all His benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will He harbor His anger forever;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His love for those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
for He knows how we are formed,
He remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,
and His righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep His covenant
and remember to obey His precepts.
The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
and His kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you His angels,
you mighty ones who do His bidding,
who obey His word.
Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts,
you His servants who do His will.
Praise the Lord, all His works
everywhere in His dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.


Happy Birthday, Baby L!

You were fearfully and wonderfully made by an amazing God who CHOSE to create you, sweet baby girl!
He designed the color of your hair, the shape of your toes, the dimples in your cheeks,
the length of your eyelashes, and the beautiful golden hue of your skin.
He made you uniquely YOU, and you are precious and valuable because you are a reflection of HIM!

It is hard to believe we have only known you for sixteen days, for it feels like you have always been a part of our family. Your smile has captured every Eastman heart and your energy, laugh, and over-the-top personality brings us much joy. Caleb cannot look at you without smiling and declaring, "Oh my goodness, Princess, you are so cute!" before he scoops you up in his arms and makes you laugh until you are out of breath. Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie literally fight over who gets to hold you, feed you, play with you during your bath, and sit next to you in the Thunder Bus. They cannot get enough of you, Miss L!
You still aren't sure about Micah and Luke, but they cannot look at you without smiling because they are taken in by your cuteness. And Mr. Eastman told you just yesterday how much he is going to miss you.

As for me, sweet baby, I am awed and overwhelmed by the love I feel for you after such a short time.
As I prayed for you yesterday, emotion overwhelming me at the thought of saying goodbye,
the Lord reminded me of our son Matthew. I never saw him smile, I never heard him laugh,
and I never felt his little arms around my neck. But he changed my life, forever.
Baby L, I have seen you smile. I have heard you laugh. I have felt your little arms around my neck
a hundred times. And you too, have changed me, forever.
We prayed the Lord would choose the right foster baby for our family. We prayed He would give me opportunities to minister to the mother of the baby. And then - He sent YOU!
You showed me that I can love someone else's child with as much passion and commitment as I love my own. You showed me that all of the training, the paperwork, the appointments, and every demand of the foster care system are absolutely worth it because those pieces are only a means to an end.
The end? Welcoming babies into our family, loving them, protecting them, providing for them, and caring for them until they get to go home. There is nothing that matters more than serving babies and their families who need healing, forgiveness, and grace because we all need healing, forgiveness, and grace.

You may not read this until you are fully grown, but no matter when you do I want you to remember the truth that you are valuable. You are precious. You MATTER. Not because of what you do or how you perform or how others perceive you. You are precious and valuable because you were created by a loving, faithful, gracious God who decided that this world would be better with you in it!
Seek Him, sweet one. Seek Him every day and never stop until You find Him. And when You do, respond to the offer of forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life by exclaiming, "Yes, Lord! I surrender all, and I will follow You all the days of my life!" For Baby L, you were not made for this world. You were created for eternity! My greatest prayer is that you will spend that eternity with the One who designed you, with joy, in the secret places of the earth before you were born.

❤ Happy 1st Birthday, little one! ❤
How thankful we are that the Lord chose to give you LIFE!
May you live it the way He intended. ABUNDANTLY!


Not ruined - REFINED!

One of the greatest criticisms (and the most asked question) we received after announcing we were pursuing foster care certification was that becoming a foster family would "ruin our children."
They would not get enough attention.
Their needs would go unmet.
The demands of the system would burden them.
We would be too exhausted to serve them after serving a baby all day.
And so on.

I cannot speak for any other family, for each has their own story to tell. But I can speak for my own, and after witnessing my children sacrifice 72 hours to serve two foster babies, including one with intense medical needs, I would argue that foster care will not ruin my children - it will refine them!

While we have plenty of arms to hold babies, those arms have to work as well as play.
Pushing a stroller around the neighborhood, building with blocks, splashing in the bath, tickling feet, playing peek-a-boo, reading books, and making a baby laugh are highlights of the day.
But diapers must be changed, food prepared, clothes washed, 24/7 supervision provided, medicine administered, doctor visits attended, and crying resolved.
All aspects of child care, the fun and the frustrating, are life skills that must be mastered at some point.
So, why not now?

In an effort to give our children a voice, however, and not assume that I know how they feel or what they are thinking about our new world of foster care - I asked them!
Today's writing assignment:
Please get two pieces of paper.
On the first piece write, "The best part of foster care."
On the second piece write, "The hardest part of foster care."
List ten items on each sheet.

This is what Josiah (11), Isaiah (10), and Ellie (8) had to say.

❤ The BEST part of Foster Care ❤

Taking walks with the baby
Making fun memories.
Playing with her.
Feeding her.
Helping her when she needs help.
She is cute.
She laughs a lot.
She likes to play.
Giving her a bath.
My mom gets to spend time with her parents.
Watching her play.
Taking her out of her crib when she wakes up.
Seeing her smile.
Holding her.
Looking at her cuteness.
Helping my mom take care of her.
Entertaining her.

⬥ The Hardest Part of Foster Care ⬥

Changing diapers.
Watching her so she doesn't get lost.
The crying.
The breathing treatments. (respite)
Making sure she doesn't get hurt.
When they leave.
Learning a new language to speak to her.
Having to follow her everywhere she goes.
The fussing.
The bad moods.
Putting her shoes on.
When she cries Mom is the only one who can calm her down.
Carrying her everywhere when she doesn't want to walk.
When she is sick and needs medicine.

In short - PARENTING!
Our kids are learning what it is like to be parents! And what is the #1 factor of parenting?

There are a hundred and one things that can "ruin" my children,
but learning how to sacrifice for the good of others is most definitely not on the list.

When the Lord called Dennis and me to foster care He also called our children.
He is not just writing our story as a couple.
He is also writing one for Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
And we pray they will be blessed by this experience, rejoice in it, and most importantly,
that it will be used to shape not only their futures - but their character. ❤

For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.’
Matthew 25:35-40


A weekend of unexpected BEAUTY!

Or rather - a play weekend!

Our agency called on Thursday and asked if we would provide respite care for a precious baby girl for three nights. After making sure we could handle her medical needs, we said Yes!

I may resemble a raccoon, and I may have worn my pants inside-out all day, but it is totally worth it because our family has been blessed by the presence of these sweet baby girls.

We have enough arms to hold and care for them and they have enough smiles and hugs
and laughter and cuddles to bring joy to every Eastman.💗

Today I am praising God for the BEAUTY of foster care because there IS true beauty to be discovered and enjoyed. And we have seen that beauty in the faces of these two baby girls.💗💗


A new beginning!

After three years of preparations and prayer, we are praising God for our first foster baby! 💛

This little one joined our family last night, and we are enjoying every moment with her!

Fourteen days or fourteen months, however long we are blessed with her presence in our home, we will be grateful that we have been entrusted to care for such a sweet soul. 💛

We cannot wait to meet her parents and thank them for letting us care for their daughter, and we pray we will have the opportunity to encourage and support them in unique and meaningful ways.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed with AND for us during this journey.
We never could have made it here - holding a precious baby while she waits to go home - without being surrounded with encouragement, support, and love from family and friends. 💛💛💛

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:14-16


Why do I speak?!?

As if stumbling across the Elisabeth Elliot quote wasn't convicting enough, this one followed right behind to add greater strength to the conviction! Clearly, the Lord is reemphasizing a lesson He taught me several years ago: She doesn't need to speak just because she has a mouth!


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.

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 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 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!


A confession and a renewed commitment to accountability.

I have been unsettled in my spirit lately, and the Lord graciously relieved my angst by causing me to stumble across this post written one year ago. While my current struggle is not with actual words, the challenge is also well-aimed at the origin of words. The heart.
For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
To be honest, I think I am more convicted by this now than I was last year, and I am grateful. For the heart is deceitfully wicked, and the tongue, as Scripture says, cannot be tamed. But we can intentionally seek to lessen its power day by day, month by month, year by year. Let's go out fighting!


When I was a freshman in college, I was looking out the window of a friend's dorm room and made a comment about someone walking below. My friend looked up, locked eyes with me, and said, "You have a critical spirit." And then, she put her head back in her book and kept right on reading. I was stunned. What had I said? Nothing extreme or inappropriate, nothing different than what a hundred other women/girls had said before. So why the rebuke? 
It took me quite some time to figure it out. Time in the Word. Time in prayer. Time in silence. And time bathing in the humiliation that brings about humility.
One of my (many) life verses during my college years was this beauty:
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3
I had it written on my mirror in dry erase marker. I had it written on a note card that I carried with me at all times. I highlighted it in my Bible. I repeated it to myself over and over and over. Yet I still managed to drive a steamroller through the door and shoot the guard more times than I care to admit.

I know I am not alone. I have listened to countless messages and sermons, read dozens of books, heard several testimonies, and witnessed women sobbing on my couch ... each one confessing embarrassing moments of gossip, meddling in the business of others, slandering someone, making wrong judgments in ignorance, or carelessly saying something that cannot be unsaid.
And relationships were either damaged or destroyed.

What do they all have in common? Lack of self-control and pride. 
Not thinking before speaking.
Not praying before thinking or speaking.
Not asking the right questions or enough questions to make sure all of the facts have been presented.
Not listening with the intent of understanding.
Not prayerfully pondering before answering.
Not asking if the information is private or can be shared.
Not confessing, repenting and seeking forgiveness immediately after doing one/all of the above.
And the list goes on.

Almost 30 years have passed since I stood looking out of that dorm room window, but the sting of those words feels as fresh as if it took place moments ago. And I am thankful because I need to feel the sting often to remind me that I will never have full control over my tongue this side of heaven.
I will always need to pray for wisdom and discretion to know when to speak and when to be silent.
I will always need to remember that "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)
I will always have to remember that what is said and what is heard do not necessarily match. 
And I will always have to remember that though it may not be my intent, my words can hurt, offend, and wound someone deeply.

Praise the Lord for His forgiveness and grace when I fail to remember. 
And I pray others are willing to offer that same forgiveness and grace when I fail them.

Whenever I steamroll the door and shoot the guard of my mouth, the Lord is gracious to forgive, restore, and encourage me. One way He does this is through the testimonies of others. This particular writing was penned by a woman I greatly admire and respect. She was beloved, revered, and considered a pillar of the Christian faith. She was also feisty and shared about her struggle to control her tongue. Her story encourages me with the thought that maybe, just maybe, like her, my tongue will one day bear fewer teeth marks. Not because I will have mastered the art of controlling it, but because I will have handed over the reins to the One who is Master of all.


When to Keep Your Mouth CLOSED ~  Elisabeth Elliot

In the Heat of Anger
-Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
-Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.
Proverbs 14:7

When You Don't Have All the Facts
-He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. Proverbs 18:13
-The first to present his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17

If Your Words Will Offend a Weaker Brother
It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Romans 14:21

When You are Tempted to Joke About Sin
Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor. Proverbs 14:9

When You Would be Ashamed of Your Words Later
For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them. Proverbs 8:7, 8

When You are Tempted to Make Light of Holy Things
Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.
For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
Ecclesiastes 5:2, 3

When You are Feeling Critical
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 
Ephesians 4:29

If Your Words Would Convey a Wrong Impression
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Proverbs 17:27

When You are Tempted to Tell an Outright Lie
Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Proverbs 4:24

If Your Words Will Damage Someone's Reputation or Spread Gossip
An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire.
A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. Proverbs 16:7, 8 

If You Cannot Speak Without Yelling
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28

When You are Tempted to Flatter a Wicked Person
It is not good to show partiality in judgment.
He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”
Him the people will curse; nations will abhor him.
But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
And a good blessing will come upon them. Proverbs 24:23-25

When You are Supposed to be Working Instead
In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

When It is Time to Listen 
-Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
James 1:19
-If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13
-A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2

Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from trouble. Proverbs 21:23

Imagine if we all committed to obeying these commands.
The world would be much quieter, and we could fill the silence with encouragement and praise!


Wedding Reception FUN!

Graham & Staci were married May 4th in Arizona, but celebrated with California friends today!
Gorgeous day - gorgeous park - and a very happy Bride & Groom.
Thank you for letting us share in your joy!

 Julie (Graham’s mom) came out of nowhere - just appeared in my life -
and became a faithful and fabulous FRIEND! 

Thankful to have snapped a few selfies with my guys!
Ellie was with us, but was so busy playing with and taking care of the G3 - 
she never made it in front of the camera. 

Two of our oldest, delightful, wonderful friends were at the reception - Bruce & Charise!
We have been friends since college and spent almost every night together (as young married couples) talking, eating dinner, watching stupid shows, and laughing a TON until they were called to the mission field in Chihuahua, Mexico. Oh, how we MISSED them!
Dennis and Bruce have been best friends since the day they met - in 1988 - and they literally (yes, I am using the word correctly) talk every.single.day. Half the time Charise and I roll our eyes at their nonsense, but we know they are truly good for each other - in every way.
Charise and I taught Pre-K together for a year and created a deep bond because of it.
She is a unique woman who can make me laugh with just a facial expression. She is a GEM.
What an unexpected DELIGHT it was to see them today. It felt like we were 22 again, and I loved it!


To the birth mother of a foster baby ...

Dear sister,

As I eagerly await the call for a baby who needs a temporary home, I cannot help but think of you.

I don’t know you.
I don’t know your name.
I don’t know your profession, your educational background, or your family.
I don't know your hobbies, your favorite holiday, or your favorite ice cream.
I don't know your greatest joy or your greatest sorrow.
We may have everything in common or share no interests.

But I know we share one thing ... the heart of a mother. ❤

I don’t know your story.
I don’t know why your baby isn't with you right now, or what you have to do so he can come home.
But I do know there is a danger in knowing only one part of a story.
Society assumes they know the "why" and "what" of your situation. It decides where the blame lies and makes judgments accordingly. All without knowing you.
But the truth is, even if we did know the whole story, every single detail, those facts should elicit compassion, empathy, and grace because all of us have a story. All of us need forgiveness. All of us need a second chance.
We have made mistakes. We have regrets. We carry burdens from the past that must be worked through and resolved, and some are easier to bear than others. We have wounds and scars made by those we love and thought we could trust, and some that were inflicted by perfect strangers.
None of us are whole. None of us are without flaw. And some of our most broken pieces are not because of things we have done, but because of things that have been done to us.

When I think about you I wonder, "Has anyone ever told you how valuable you are? Has anyone ever told you that you are beautiful? Has anyone ever told you that you are intelligent and can do anything if you work hard to accomplish your goal? Has anyone ever pointed out and praised your strengths? Has anyone ever asked you to share your deepest feelings and fears? Has anyone ever told you that you are worthy of love because you are you, not because of what you do or how you perform? And most importantly, I wonder if anyone has ever told you that you were fearfully and wonderfully made by an amazing God?"

I don’t know the circumstances that brought you to this place, but I know there is nothing you have done, nothing you have thought, nothing you have experienced that cannot be forgiven and redeemed by an amazing, loving, and forgiving God. 
I know what it is like to walk in shame, I know what it is to feel like you are "not enough," and I know too well the sting of rejection. But dear sister, none of those things have to define you. They may be part of your past, they may be part of your present, but they do not have to be your future or your legacy.

Though I have never had a child removed from my home, I did give birth to a lifeless son. I understand the pain, the deep sorrow, the questions, the confusion, and the fear of not having your child with you. But sister, your child lives! You have an opportunity that I will never have with my son. How I envy you! You have the chance to start fresh! You can follow your plan, surround yourself with people who will encourage and support you, ask for help, take classes, heal your body ... whatever may be needed ... and be reunited with your precious baby. ❤

Motherhood is overwhelming. Even in the best of circumstances, taking care of and raising children is one of the hardest jobs in the world. When circumstances are not the best, the difficulties are enhanced and the stressors are magnified. I imagine you feel like you are drowning with no one on land willing to pull you out of the water. But sister, as lonely as you might feel, and as unsupported as you might be, there is always someone ready to throw a life ring. They may not be in your family, in your friend group, or even in your community, but that is the beauty of the large world in which we live. You can reach out to a different community, a different group of people so they become your family, your friends, and your support.

I don’t know you, sweet birth mom, but I wish I did. I wish I could invite you into my home to sit on my couch while I hold your baby and listen to you share your story. I wish I could hold your hands, look you in the eye and tell you that you are valuable. That you matter. You matter because you were created by a loving God who molded you with His own hands for a purpose.
I wish I could hug you. I wish I could introduce you to other women who have walked where you now walk, to encourage you and give you hope that where you are right now - does not have to be your "forever."

I may never have the privilege of meeting you, but I am thankful I can still give you a fantastic gift without ever looking upon your sweet face. I can take you to the Throne of Grace where the God of heaven reigns, and where He invites His children to come before Him boldly with their requests!
I will pray for you.
I will pray for your baby and/or your children.
I will pray that the Lord surrounds you with people who want you to succeed and will be part of that success.
I will pray for your physical strength, your emotional strength, and for the Lord to meet your spiritual needs.
But, I think, my greatest prayer will be that the Lord will remove the dirty, cracked lenses through which you have been looking at yourself, and replace them with crystal clear lenses that show you the truth of who you are. You may not know Him, you may not want to know Him, but He knows you dear, sweet sister, and you are precious in His sight. ❤

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17, 18


Three extraordinary lives that cause me to evaluate my own!

After three months of laying books aside to focus on foster care certification and wrap up our school year at The Eastman Academy, it was an absolute delight to devour three fantastic biographies the past two weeks! Time does not usually allow for long stretches of attention to the written word, but these were so well penned I could not put them down and was disappointed when I turned the final page of each one.
Such remarkable lives!
Such devotion to Christ!
Such passion for the lost!
Such wholehearted surrender to obey the call of their Master!
I was deeply encouraged by their stories and wish I had another fifty years of life to live so as to emulate their example!
Praise God that He can "restore the years the locusts have eaten," redeem time poorly spent, and convict us to "number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

Because it would be impossible to share the plethora of excellent quotes, stories, and testimonies contained in the pages of these books, I will share my favorite quotes that, I think, paint an accurate picture of the character of each man.

➤ William Whiting Borden
A millionaire who gave up everything to become a missionary in China, and died suddenly at age 25.

"No reserves. No retreats. No regrets."

Written on a piece of paper kept in his pocket: "My Lord, enable me to conquer my will and overcome my desires. Not my will but Thine be done."

➤ John G. Paton
A pioneer missionary to the cannibal peoples of the New Hebrides islands of the South Pacific in the mid-1800s.

"Nothing so clears the vision and lifts up the life, as a decision to move forward in what you know to be entirely the will of the Lord."

"At the moment I put the bread and wine into those dark hands, once stained with the blood of cannibalism, now stretched out to receive and partake the emblems and seals of the Redeemer's love, I had a foretaste of the joy of glory that well nigh broke my heart to pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss, till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus himself."

➤ William Carey
A pioneer missionary to the people of India in the late 1700s, and founder of the first degree-awarding university in India. 

“I'm not afraid of failure; I'm afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter.” 

"I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything."


It's time for a Mom Poll!

This book.
Nothing new or ground-breaking, as biographies have been written for centuries and will continue to be written until the sun ceases to shine.
But the collection of stories is a stirring reminder that mothers play a significant role in the lives of their children, whether they want to or not.
Purposeful motherhood.
Passive motherhood.
Both leave a mark on the life of a child, so we must wisely choose which model we will embrace.

I was encouraged by the stories and memories of godly men who claimed their mothers were the "why" for their "what."
I was convicted by the testimonies of mothers who spent so much time praying for their sons that their knees became calloused.
I was challenged by the consistency of kindness expressed and the unyielding standard of holiness upheld by mothers who engaged with defiant, wayward, and worldly sons.
And I was made to wonder what my sons would write about me if asked to do so.

Do they see me as passive or purposeful?
Would they proclaim or protest my prayers on their behalf?
Do they see me as a catalyst or a hindrance to their pursuit of holiness?
Are they confident that my love for them is sure, regardless of mistakes, failings, and sin?

These questions are important to me. They always have been. But in the midst of the needs of daily life, I fear I have been remiss in seeking the answers from the only ones who can offer them.
My sons.

But praise be! The Lord reminded me of the "tool" He inspired several years ago when I was seeking a way to study my children so I would know how to serve them best. He showed me that instead of studying and wondering and formulating what I *think* they need and want, I should ask them what they need and want. Imagine! <insert grin here> After this divine revelation occurred, I asked the Lord to show me a simple way to collect the desired data from my then 13, 11, 9, 5, 4 and 3-year old children. And thus began the Mom Poll! (modified yearly for the age and stage of each child)

If you walk up to one of my teen sons and declare, "Hey! I heard you have to take a Mom Poll!" your eyes will witness their own roll up toward the heavens. One may even groan, "Ugh. I hate that thing!" But as I tell them each year, when handing them a sheet of paper and a pen, "I bet at least one of you will mention this in my eulogy - as a FOND memory!" And then I laugh while their eyes roll past the heavens and into the backs of their skulls as they commence the taking of the Mom Poll.

I will admit, the first time they took the poll I was beyond nervous. All of my regrets as a mother played in a loop on the screen of my mind. I expected to see all of my mistakes written in the hand of each child, condemning me more than I already condemned myself. But I was wrong. Quite wrong, actually. When I read through each review, I was surprised. They were honest. They answered through the lens of their perspectives. They rebuked me where necessary. But where I gave myself no grace, they offered much.

What I thought was a simple little exercise ended up being a fabulous teacher, for what I learned through the Mom Poll was a simple truth. My children do not want a perfect mom. They want me. And this is a beautiful truth because while I cannot offer nor deliver a perfect mother, I can give them - myself.

Lord, thank You that You are a God who can redeem the past, overcome mistakes, and erase regrets. Thank You for being a God who refuses to leave or forsake His children, and generously pours out wisdom when they seek it. Being a mother is the hardest role I have ever filled, and I know I have much to learn and many areas in which to grow. Please, Lord, never stop teaching me, convicting me, challenging me, or encouraging me as a mother, for I want to bring glory to You, by honoring them.


Mom  Poll 

What areas do you feel I am succeeding as a mom? (with you personally)

 In what areas can I improve as a mom? (with you personally)

 Do you see any hypocrisy in me - in word and/or deed?

 In what areas do you feel I am inconsistent? (with you personally)

 Do I encourage you in your walk with the Lord? If so, how?

 Is there anything I do that causes you to stumble in your walk with the Lord?

 What can I do to encourage/challenge/hold you accountable in your pursuit of godliness?

 Do you feel loved by me? Appreciated? Respected? 

 Do you feel like you get enough of my time and/or attention?
    What does “enough” look like to you?

 If there was one thing I could do better that would make our relationship stronger and more secure, what would it be?


The enemy made us stumble, but the Lord made us DANCE!

After being allowed the privilege of walking beside dozens of families who adopted children or became foster parents, we knew we would not walk a bumpless road when we chose to follow in their footsteps. We have witnessed the loss of jobs, sickness, injuries, disheartening diagnoses for children, estranged family relationships, legal troubles, depression, marriage struggles, and spiritual battles. All of these before a foster child or orphan entered their homes!

And yet, each of these families kept moving forward. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time, for they knew every obstacle thrown in their path was an attempt of the enemy to keep them from moving forward. He does not thwart the path of those who follow him. He seeks to destroy those who follow Christ. So, of course, anyone following the Master to an orphanage to visit orphans in their distress becomes a target.

It was no surprise to us, therefore, when scarcely two hours after we turned in our foster care application, we took our first hit. I will never forget that moment. Standing in our backyard on a beautiful, sunny day, letting the news sink in while we soaked up the warmth of the sun. One word kept spinning through my mind. AFTER. We found out AFTER we turned in our application. Had we heard the news one day earlier, even that very morning, we would have (at best) hesitated or (at worst) not turned it in at all.
He knew our resolve would have weakened with the news.
He knew we would have questioned if we should move forward.
He knew we would have to trust Him, not ourselves.
He knew we would have to surrender what we thought was logical and necessary.
He knew the answer before we knew there was a question.
He knew.
We did not.
And so, as we stood on the cement slab in our backyard staring at each other that lovely afternoon, we had to make a choice. Will we follow the Lord down this new turn in the road without a word of worry or complaint, trusting Him to work out the details of the unknown?
It may have seemed like a choice, but there was really only one answer. "Yes, Lord. We will follow!"

Since that day, He has shown us that He is in control. He is aware. He sees us.
He has faithfully ministered to us through the reading of His Word, the preaching of His Word, and quotes written by godly men and women.
This Scripture passage comforted me more than any other:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually

and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Isaiah 58:6-11

He has also ministered to us in tangible ways, reminding us that He IS Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide) by moving the hearts of others to join Him in unique and fun ways. And our brothers and sisters had no idea we needed them!
A friend threw us a "virtual" baby shower to provide the items needed for the babies who will come into our home. Another friend provided four days of paid physical labor which covered unexpected expenses. Two dear sisters prepared our bedroom to be a nursery. Notes of encouragement were placed in our hands. A family member filled a Costco cart with household supplies. Baby clothes were delivered. Gifts arrived in the mail. The government sent us an unexpected tax return. Dear friends added us to their "monthly missionary budget" because they see orphan care as a mission field. And most recently, the thoughtful family of my college roommate surprised us with a generous check that made me cry and caused Dennis to choke up, for it arrived during one of the hardest weeks we have yet endured in this journey.

George Mueller has long been one of my favorite pillars of the faith, and every time the Lord provided for our family in tangible ways such as those listed above, I was reminded of Mueller's seemingly unequaled faith in God's provision. "Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends."

Praise God that He sees all when we see only what is in front of us.
Praise God that He knows all when we know only a piece of the whole.
Praise God that He knows what was, what is, and what is to come.

The day we turned in our foster care application was a great day, though not what we expected. I literally danced my way down the stairs after handing the application to the smiling woman at the front desk, not knowing that Dennis and I were about to trip and fall over the gigantic obstacle the enemy threw into our path hoping we would run away in discouragement and fear.
Little did he know that our God keeps a stockpile of sparkly shoes ready to slip onto the feet of His children after He faithfully and joyfully turns their mourning - into DANCING!

... for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:8