9.25.2016

Wedding FUN!

We had such a wonderful time at Sean and Abby's wedding!
The five hours were filled with joy, a lot of laughter, good conversations, jokes and jests, worship, praise, Scripture, words of affirmation and encouragement, music, vows, dancing, the proclamation of a new husband and wife ~ and FUN!
Christ was glorified,
the couple was honored,
and their community celebrated with them in their joy.
Just as it should be on a wedding day.


Chilled Mexican Coke to toast the Bride & Groom? Um, YES!


What a treat it was to enjoy a wedding with our oldest boys.
They had a blast with their friends who attended, and we made some fun memories together.


I asked this couple if we could take a photo together because ... they are ENGAGED! 
Sam and Tiffany will commit their lives to one another in November, and we are praising God for orchestrating every detail over the last year to bring them to this place.
Their love, commitment, and tenderness for one another is sweet ... and beautiful.
I LOVE that I have this picture of us!


This man found a way into the hearts of my boys after knowing him for all of nine minutes, and it wasn't long after that he had the rest of ours too!
Jeff is an energetic and enthusiastic lover of God, lover of people, and lover of the church, and we are blessed to call him friend.


Laura
Emily - Beth
Three young women who make me smile every time I see them!
Laura has an enthusiasm for people and for life that I wish I could bottle and sell. We never talk to each other without being mutually encouraged.
Emily gives the BEST hugs in the world, and has one of the biggest hearts I have ever known. She could be a professional encourager - and I would be first in line to receive her gift!
Beth has a simple, sweet, sincere love for Jesus - and shares that love with everyone she meets. Being with her leaves you feeling refreshed - and happy.
How much I love the Lord for bringing such beautiful young women into my life!


The guys.
Need I say more?


~ Costel and Maria ~
Our sons were some of the first students in the youth group when it was a fledgling flock of a dozen kids. Their friendship has grown and matured as they have, and because of their friendship, the four of us have grown our own. And we are thankful.


The Dance Floor is OPEN!


It's always fun to see one of your pastors show off his fantastic dance moves!
Once he busted a move - the other men followed suit. Dennis is never afraid to dance "when the right song comes on," and I may or may not have shown my best "sprinkler" move.
Seriously - uninhibited people are so good for me! I live vicariously through them and laugh so hard I can hardly breathe. I LOVE it!



 Sean invited these young men to his wedding because he has spent the last four years investing in them. He has counseled, encouraged, admonished, rebuked, and challenged them in their faith - and in life. He has fun and competes with them, and because he has such a balance between speaking truth TO them and enjoying life WITH them - he has earned their respect, and their trust.
Thank you for investing so faithfully in our sons, Sean. You have made a difference in their lives and - in the Kingdom.


Together again!
Almost four years ago I met these sisters at another wedding and asked them, "Who is pouring into your lives? Who is investing in your hearts?" And thus began a disciple relationship that has been encouraging, beautiful, and filled with affection. They allowed me to dig into their hearts and pull apart what was discovered with the singular purpose of learning how
to seek, know, and love God more.
Danielle and Michelle are not just "my girls" ... they are my FRIENDS.
And I cannot imagine life without them.

Sean and Abby are now ONE!

This afternoon we had the privilege of witnessing this godly couple stand before the Lord and almost 400 people as they promised to commit themselves to one another - mind, body, and soul - forever.
Being invited to a wedding is an honor, but being welcomed into the lives of the bride and groom to share in their struggles, their joys, and everything in between is an act of trust. They willingly choose to let us see them "as they are" so we can pray for them, encourage them, and push them toward Christ. And they do so because they want to be faithful to the Lord and to each other, and they know they cannot do it without the support of their family and brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sean and Abby live in community.
They seek wisdom from men and women who are older, wiser, and have walked through life much longer than they have walked.
They ask to be held accountable - in all areas.
They pursue fellowship with other believers so they can continually grow in their faith and learn to know and love God more.
They invest in the hearts of others, diving in to serve and encourage and support the people they love in any way that is needed at the time.
Simply put, Sean and Abby love others. And because they do, they are loved in return, with equal devotion.

Their wedding was FUN! Relaxed. Unique. Lively. Christ-centered. Welcoming. Inclusive.
Children ran around and dangled from ropes on trees.
The bridesmaids looked stunning in their coral dresses and the groomsmen looked dapper in their suits and bow ties.
Twinkle lights created an atmosphere of beauty and warmth.
Guests seated themselves at lovely tables and toasted the bride and groom with Coke and Sprite bottles.
We sang a song of worship with the bride and groom, and the bride looked like she was in the presence of the King while she sang - her face radiated JOY.
The parents of the bride and groom looked wonderful and prayed together with Sean and Abby at the foot of the stage before surrendering their children to "leave and cleave" as God designed.
Delicious nacho appetizers and freshly made tacos were devoured by the guests.
The dance floor was full of energetic and enthusiastic participants who laughed and smiled while they grooved with the music.
The pastor shared fun, thoughtful, and memorable stories about the bride and groom.
The wrote and spoke their own vows.
Rings were exchanged, they were presented as Mr. & Mrs., and their first kiss as husband and wife sealed the vows.
It was a fantastic day!

Thank you, Sean and Abby, for allowing our family to be a part of this wonderful day. Your wedding ceremony was thoughtful, intentional, and wholly focused on the Lord. We will pray for you and trust the Lord to use You for His glory in the days ahead as you continue to run hard after Him and keep looking around to see who else is keeping up - so you can run the race called Christianity - together.
CONGRATULATIONS! You are MARRIED!

9.24.2016

Quote.

Lord, 
forgive us for thinking more about what people think of us 
than about what they think of Jesus. 
~ Marshall Segal

This and that.

Saturday!
No errands, no chores, no school prep - just FUN!
Dennis started the morning with a Boot Camp workout with the young adults from our church. (Well, the ones who wanted to get up at 5:30 am on a Saturday that is.)
Immediately after putting the equipment away he and the older boys headed down to the beach to surf and enjoy some time together.
Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie are spending an entire day with family friends, and Caleb is spending the entire day with one of his best buds because the rest of us are going to a WEDDING! Dennis, Micah, Luke, and I will spend our late afternoon and evening celebrating the marriage of Sean and Abby - and we are excited! Sean served in our youth group for years and invested in the lives of the guys with passionate commitment. What a joy it is to be part of such a special event and witness a lifelong commitment between two people who are more committed to God than they are to each other.
Today is a good day!

The best part of the week, however, was the arrival of our niece - Sofia! She is welcomed by her older siblings Lorenzo, Roman, and Olivia.
Their first three were born overseas so this is the first baby born right here in America, and we are thrilled that we get to meet her soon!
I loved those first few days with a newborn. Sweet, tender, quiet moments spent looking at every detail of that little person ... a life created by a holy God who designed her with purpose and love.
Sofia means "wisdom."
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
This will be our prayer for you, sweet niece, trusting the Lord to draw you to Himself at a very early age so you will grow in wisdom all the days of your life.
Welcome to the family! We already love you!

~~~ Speaking of babies, we finished our paperwork for Safe Families!!!
Once again I put a "pause" on the process since we do not have a vehicle that can accommodate any more bodies, and once again, I had to be reprimanded by the Lord to "Get some faith, woman!"
Really, this is SO embarrassing. Do I trust God or not? Get it together, Michelle!

Dennis asked me a couple weeks ago, "Hey, where are we in the Safe Families process?" I looked at him with a confused expression and reminded him that we need a larger van thinking he would respond, "Oh yes. That little detail." But he did not respond that way. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "God will provide the van. That's not our job. Out job is to be READY when He does."
Embarrassing moment #2.
It propelled me to action, however, so I e-mailed the director to tell her we have not forgotten them and "we will complete the paperwork and the training so we are ready when the Lord provides."
I laughed when I read the last phrase. Not if - WHEN the Lord provides.
It reminded me of the famous George Mueller story when he sat down to an empty table with 100 orphans and prayed, "Lord, thank You for the food You will provide." As soon as he said 'amen' a baker knocked on the door to deliver unexpected freshly-baked bread, and a milk truck broke down in front of the orphanage and asked if they could take the milk so it would not spoil.
THAT is faith!
I have filled my mind with hundreds of stories like these. So now - I need to IMITATE them and do as God said. "Get some faith, woman!"
Forgive me, Lord, for being such a slow learner. Increase my faith.

~~~ We had COMMITTED on Monday, and it was such a rich time of fellowship! Every time I am with my girls I love them more. They never cease to amaze me with their willingness to be vulnerable, transparent and humble. They listen intently to each other without looking at their watches or checking their phones. We spend three hours completely focused on God's Word, and the heart and thoughts of one another.
They bring me such joy and I know without a doubt the Lord started COMMITTED over three years ago because He knew it was needed. For them - and for me.
My girls are not just my sisters in Christ - they are my friends. We rejoice often, but when the trials and hurts of life wash over us, we dive under the waves together ... praying, crying, encouraging, supporting ... until the storm subsides and peace takes the place of turmoil.
Thank You, Father, for the gift of these young women. You have drawn each one to the group for "such a time as this" and it is always beautiful and amazing because Your timing is always - perfect.

~~~ Two nights later I had the privilege of spending time with Mariah. We had not seen each other since the memorial service and she was about to leave to spend a few weeks with Tyler's sister, so I asked if we could at least exchange a hug before she left, and she said "Yes!"
The hug turned into a two-hour conversation - and it was just what we both needed. Words, laughter, tears, and prayer ... a perfect combination for a hurting heart.
Oh, Lord, please continue to tenderly and mercifully care for the heart of my sweet sister. 

~~~ Worship music has been a constant in my life recently. I always enjoy it, but sometimes I need it. And the Lord is continually faithful to encourage and comfort me through the melody and lyrics of music. Sometimes when there are no words, Scripture and worship capture what your heart wants to say, but can't.
I will leave with this song, and pray that as you listen, it will encourage you as much as it encouraged me this week.

You Loved My Heart to Death
It's taken me some time to believe
That when You said it's done
That's what You mean
That when they drove the nails through Your hands
You did not recant
You didn't take it back

I drank the cup of death
It's running through my veins
I chose my pride instead
Of the glory of Your name
All the wrath of God that I
Deserve with every breath
Fell upon Him
And He loved my heart to death

It's taken me some time to believe
There'll never come a day
That You'll ever leave
That when I drive the nails through Your hands
You do not recant
You never take it back

Oh I drank the cup of death
It's running through my veins

I chose my pride instead
Of the glory of Your name
All the wrath of God that I
Deserve with every breath
Fell upon Him
And He loved my heart to death

You put it in the grave
Brought it back to life
Put it in the grave
Brought it back to life
Put it in the grave
Brought it back to life

Oh I drank the cup of death
It's running through my veins
I chose my pride instead
Of the glory of Your name
All the wrath of God that I
Deserve with every breath
Fell upon Him
And He loved my heart to death

9.23.2016

He trusts me. Even when I don't.

Every morning my husband rises while it is still dark, prepares for his day, kisses my sleeping head, and leaves for work, trusting me to run our home and care for our children while he is gone. 
He has full confidence in me, even when I am unable to muster any for myself.

Two weeks ago I sent him a text which read, "I am a failure. I'm sorry. I have failed you because I have failed your children. I am overwhelmed and under-equipped. Every day I wake up thinking, "I can do this!" But before the clock strikes 8:00 am, I have sinned. Frustration, anger, impatience, annoyance - pick one. I am not a good mom. I don't meet all of their needs ... I don't even know if I CAN. I'm sorry. Forgive me for failing them - and for failing you."

I do not remember any of the words he wrote in response except these: 
Failure is an action, Michelle, not a person.

Hmm.

I have not been able to stop thinking about something else Dennis said, at Tyler's memorial service.
Boys ask, "Are we done yet?"
MEN ask, "What's next?"

Right now, I feel like a 7-year-old boy whining, "Am I done yet? Can I go to bed? I'm tired. Weary. Emotionally drained. Out of patience, kindness, and grace. ARE WE DONE YET? Please, tell me we are done!"

But I am not a boy. I am not a girl. I am a grown woman. I too should be asking, "What's next?"

Rising early when I am still tired. What's next?
Breakfast and chores and prepping for the day. What's next?
Teaching lessons, checking for understanding, grading. What's next?
Driving kids to classes and fulfilling requirements of said classes. What's next?
Shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, running errands, paying bills. What's next?
Understanding, accommodating, and adapting life and lessons for five dyslexic children. What's next?
Praying for wisdom, understanding, and compassion for our children with learning/social needs so I can serve them better and encourage them in their struggles and in their successes. What's next?
Spending intentional, purposeful, productive time in the Word and prayer. What's next?
Serving my husband, meeting his needs, encouraging and helping him. What's next?
Exercising my spiritual gifts to bless the body of Christ and honor the Lord. What's next?
Personally investing in each of my children so they feel connected and wanted by me. What's next?
Ministering to extended family. What's next?
Investing in and maintaining friendships. What's next?
Health and fitness so I am strong and able to serve the Lord and my family. What's next?

Lord! I do not want to be a petulant child who complains or grumbles about the tasks set before her. I want to be the WOMAN who does what You call her to do and then looks up eagerly to ask, "What else, Lord? What else do You have for me?"
I love being a wife and I love being a mother. Many things come naturally and are accomplished without effort because I am who You designed me to be. But there are so many things I do NOT do well, and You know how much that truth bothers me. I no longer compare myself to other moms for I know nothing is ever as it seems, but I do compare myself to Your Word, as I should, and within those pages I find myself wanting. 
I experience the fruits of the Spirit because the Spirit dwells within me, but I am not driven by joy and kindness and patience and self-control. Please, Father, teach me how to plant, harvest, and consume spiritual fruit - every single day of my life - so the fruit continually falls on the everyday parts of motherhood. 
Scripture says that Your grace is sufficient for me because when I am weak I am STRONG. But it also says, "The JOY of the Lord is your strength," so I am asking You to give me that joy! The kind of joy that provides the strength needed to do Your will because You are not finished me with me yet. Until You call me HOME to glory You will continue to accomplish Your purposes and plans for my life, and there will always be a "next."
I want to be faithful, Lord. To You, to Dennis, and to Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
On my own, I will never succeed, but with YOUR joy and YOUR strength I can do anything you ask of me, and when I do, I will be teaching my children - to do the same.


As I look at these faces and think about the role God has chosen me for, with all of the beauty and struggle, trial and triumph that accompanies motherhood, there is one verse that keeps spinning through my mind.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:58

Thank you, Dennis, for reminding me that failure does not define me. When I do fail (a verb, not a noun!), it is an opportunity for the Lord to show me my weaknesses, remind me how much I need Him, and strengthen me through the power of His might. Thank You for believing in me and trusting me when I do not trust myself. You are good for me, and I need You. Michelle

9.20.2016

Quote.

In motherhood, the everyday question - "Will I sacrifice?" is answered every time a child’s concern or need must come before my own, which is most of the time.

The everyday question, however, asks not just about what I do but also about my attitude
Will I joyfully pour out my life as a fragrant offering before the
Lord for the benefit of my children? 
Will I serve my children out of obligation and duty or will I serve
like I'm serving God Himself? 
Will I die to myself so that I might live to God in the specific
calling He has given me as a mom?

The question "Will I sacrifice?" must be answered every day.

Motherhood is not so much the big, dramatic acts of sacrifice, 
but the little, every day, unseen ones.
~ Christine Hoover
                                          
And let us not grow weary of doing good, 
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up
Galatians 6:9

9.18.2016

He won the moment.

When Mariah and I were planning Tyler's memorial service, I asked her who she wanted to speak to represent the different sides of his life. Tyler's sister, two of his friends, and his Gunnery Sergeant gave wonderful tributes, and Dennis was chosen to speak from the perspective of a mentor.
When I shared Mariah's request, he was surprised - and honored. Dennis loved Tyler. And Mariah knew it.
I finally sat down to piece together what Dennis shared at the service - because it mattered. He spoke truth. Not just about who Tyler was, but about what a man should be. And he was not ashamed of his tears. I want my boys to remember what he said, and I am confident the Lord will use D's words to encourage the hearts and minds of others who need to be reminded that we can do more. Not for our own glory - but for the Lord's.
Thank you, Mariah, for giving Dennis the opportunity to share his love, respect, and affection for a young man who deeply touched his heart and brought him much joy. 

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

     It has been both my privilege and my pleasure to train students, athletes, and teachers for the past twenty years. Among all those I have trained, it is not a stretch to say Tyler was among the best of them. He really was exceptional. He was humble and teachable and desired to be intentional rather than accidental about his pursuits.
     In 2013 Tyler and his friend Keegan were preparing to attend ALERT. Both of them showed up at my door to ask if I would train them. I said, "It depends. Do you want to be the BEST guys there? Or do you just want to be there?" They said they wanted to be the best, to which I replied, "Good! But I am not going to train you - I'm going to kill you!" They smiled.
     During the next month, I abused them. Before you begin feeling sorry for them, however, know that my abuse was not in vain. I like to say, "I beat them in the name of Jesus." They did 400-yard bear crawls, 400-yard buddy carry's, car pushes, and endless pushups, to name a few. Throughout the workouts, I would call out Bible verses to encourage them. Powerful and meaningful verses like: "How long shall I suffer with you?" or "Like a door turns on its hinges a sluggard turns on his bed. Give me 25 more pushups!" And my personal favorite, when they were suffering the most, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"
     Throughout the training, I also sought to be intentional by giving them life lessons. "Do you desire to be great? You must become servant of all." Matthew 20:23 Tyler understood that having a strong body meant he was strong to SERVE. Boys ask, "Are we done yet?" Men ask, "What's next?" Tyler embraced the "What's next?" He served. All the time.
     The lesson I used most was the story of a Navy Admiral's words to a group of SEALs prior to Hell Week. He said, "Win the moment. You don't have to win the day, the afternoon, or morning, or hour. Just win this moment, and then focus on the next."
     Like I said earlier, Tyler was intentional, not accidental, in everything he did. Including relationships. We have a huge couch in our family room that I have labeled "the crying couch" because my bride has spent countless hours sitting on that couch counseling women in crisis, women who are broken, and women who are hurting. We have also had the privilege of meeting with many couples on that same couch.
     While preparing for marriage, Tyler sought to be intentional about his role as a husband, protector, and provider. He was humble and teachable and took in every word of encouragement and admonishment about loving, caring for, and showing concern for his bride, Mariah. He treated her like a queen because that is what she was to him - his queen. And I marveled at this. How could someone so young already get this? He inspired me.
     Last Monday I had the opportunity to visit Tyler in the hospital. The room was full of people, so I crouched down so I could speak quietly in his ear and share some words of encouragement before asking if I could pray for him. He said, "That would be good." Following my prayer, I stood up and noticed the room was now empty - it was just Tyler and me - so I stood silently by his bedside for a few minutes. He opened his eyes and asked me if he could pray, and I said, "Absolutely!" I moved closer to touch him, and he prayed: Lord, thank You for Your grace for Mariah and me. I don't deserve it. You are so good to us. Help me to glorify You. Please allow me to find a comfortable position in bed so I can sleep. Please allow me to be able to eat a couple of bites of food ... that would be good. Help me to watch my tongue when I am uncomfortable and not feeling well so I don't bring You shame. In Jesus name, Amen
At this point, I was sobbing and marveling because of the simplicity of his request and the desire to guard his mouth in the moments when he was in greatest pain.
     A few days later, Tyler won the moment when Jesus showed him the "what's next?" and ushered him into the presence of God.

9.17.2016

Quote.

We cannot pray in love and live in hate 
and still think we are worshipping God.
~ A.W. Tozer

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 
Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 
We love because he first loved us. 
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. 
For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 
And He has given us this command: 
Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
I John 4

9.14.2016

FAILURE. It does not define me.

I am struggling.

I know I should not be listening to the lies. I know I need to suit up in my Ephesians 6 armor - daily - so I am prepared to defend myself against the blows of the enemy. I know I am redeemed, free, and completely secure in the arms of the Father. I KNOW. But the feelings are not following the knowledge.


F A I L U R E.

That is the word that keeps bouncing back and forth in my mind.
Every area is under attack.
Parenting. THWACK!
Homeschooling. THWACK!
Spiritual disciplines. THWACK! THWACK!
Health. THWACK!
Relationships. THWACK!
Lord, please! Smash that stinking ball!

I hate that word. 
When one of our children fail, I look him/her in the eye and firmly state, "Your failure does not DEFINE you. Everyone makes mistakes. Patterns define you, but mistakes and failures create opportunities for growth and maturity because you are able to turn that failure into a learning experience, and hopefully, not repeat the same mistake twice."
Great advice. And true. Scripture says, "This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind, and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal ..." 
Yet here I sit, deaf to my own preaching, and feeling - like a failure.
Lord ... 

I know it is the lie of the enemy.
I know he is trying to put my focus on Self so I cannot see the Savior, hear the Savior, BELIEVE the Savior.
He wants to devour me, and he doesn't even try to hide that fact!
He hates me. And I know it.
Instead of standing with my feet firmly planted, dressed in full battle gear, and wielding a freshly-sharpened sword - I - am slouched in a chair wearing a tank top, cut-offs, and flip flops while loosely holding a spatula. 
When you picture such an image, doesn't it make you want to scream, "Protect me, Michelle! Protect ME!"
Of course not. It's pathetic.

Today I hopped on the internet highway and typed in the words "verses on failure." In a Divinely ironic twist, these were the verses that appeared on the screen.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Psalm 73:26

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 


My lips curled into an amused smile as I shook my head and mumbled, "Of COURSE He would respond to me this way."
Not one verse is about failure. In fact, every verse focuses on the LORD. Just as it should be.

I am not a perfect mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter, or woman. 
I make mistakes. I hurt. I offend. 
But none of these failures DEFINE me. 
I am a redeemed child of a God who gives unlimited grace and new mercies every morning because even when I am faithLESS, He remains FAITHFUL. It's who He is. And I am grateful.

Lord, forgive my laziness in the spiritual battle. You command me to FIGHT, and I have disobeyed orders. My feelings cannot be the catalyst for my actions. They are ever-changing and unreliable. Action and obedience must come FIRST because they are based in TRUTH. Ephesians 6 does not say, "Put on the full armor of God" unless you don't feel like it ... don't see the need ... or want to do something else instead. "SUIT UP!" You yell. "There is an enemy that seeks to destroy you, and unless you are prepared - you will.not.win. GET DRESSED, soldier! The battle is raging around you and it is time to ENGAGE!"
Oh, Lord. I have been such a lazy soldier, and because of this, the enemy was given access to my heart and mind - and he won the fight. I know I cannot be perfect this side of heaven, but I can seek to be the BEST Michelle I can be, not in my own strength - but in YOURS. I know I am not a failure. I am fearfully and WONDERFULLY made, and my souls knows it. Very well. Thank You, Lord, for bringing truth to a weakened mind and restoring JOY and contentment once again.


Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me "son
Stop fighting a fight that's already been won"

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, "Child lift up your head"
I remember oh God, You're not done with me yet

I don't have to be the old man inside of me
'Cause his day is long dead and gone
I've got a new name, a new life I'm not the same
And a hope that will carry me home

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be

Oh God I'm not who I used to be
Jesus I'm not who I used to be

'Cause I am redeemed
Thank God, redeemed

9.13.2016

Great quote.

Lord, make me so mighty in seeing and mighty in savoring the promises of Your sovereign grace that in all my sorrows I might never cease to sing Your praise.

~ John Piper

9.12.2016

The Eastman Academy 2016-17 school year BEGINS!









Our verse for the 2016-17 school year:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1, 2


Micah - Junior


Luke - Sophomore


Caleb - 7th grade


Josiah - 3rd grade


Isaiah - 2nd grade


Ellie - Kindergarten

9.11.2016

Caleb + obedience = Baptism!

Today was a wonderful day for the Eastman family because ... Caleb Jeremiah was BAPTIZED!

This is what he wrote to share with our church body:

I came to Christ when I was seven years old. I grew up in a Christian home and my parents told me about Jesus and how He died for my sins. I went to church, but I really just went to see my friends, and that is not the right reason to go. 
I don’t remember my life before I became a Christian because I was so young, but I know I prayed with my mom and gave my life to God. It was at Summer Camp this year when Dan Nah was talking about running towards God that I realized I was not running as I should be, so I repented of my sins and committed to running the right way from now on.
I cannot live my life without Christ. He forgives my sins and died on the cross so I could be saved. 
I am a sinner and I deserve eternal wrath, but the reason He died on the cross was so I wouldn’t have to suffer eternally. And I am thankful!
I want to obey God and let others know that I am His child, 
so that is why I am getting baptized today.

 Thank You, Lord, for saving our son, and thank You for convicting him to take this step of obedience by publicly declaring that He willingly and gratefully belongs - to YOU!

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord ... II Timothy 1:7, 8



Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

  






What would life be like without good friends by your side on such momentous occasions such as these? Our boys are blessed with good friends - brothers and sisters - who encourage them, pray for them, rebuke them, tease them, push them toward Christ, 
and invite them to share in life - TOGETHER.

9.10.2016

We need to PRAY - MORE!

Our study of The Power of Prayer in a Believer's Life continues to stop me in my tracks and encourage me in my walk with the Lord.

My favorite quotes from chapter 3:

"God's people have always found out the best of their God when in the worst of conditions. God is good at all times, but He seems to be at His best when we are at our worst.”
I think we sometimes feel like we are supposed to experience God the.same.way - all.the.time. But is it actually possible? 
How many names of God do we see in Scripture? Dozens - if not hundreds. Healer, provider, comforter, Savior, Shepherd, high priest, refuge, strength … these names, descriptions, and attributes are real and true. They often blend together, of course, because when God comforts us in our sorrow He also gives us the strength we need to endure the sorrow. But we do not need Him to exhibit all of them at the same time. 
How often have we heard ourselves or others say, “When I was going through 'xyz' trial I experienced God in a way I have never experienced Him before.” “I was completely dependent on Him!” “I have never prayed or felt the peace of God the way I did when I was walking through that difficult time.”
Why?
Because our God meets us exactly where we are and gives us exactly what we need in that moment.
When Elijah was exhausted and starving in the hills, God did not send comfort - He sent FOOD! When Hannah cried out in her barrenness, God did not give her husband a promotion at work - He opened her womb! When the woman at the well confessed her sin of infidelity, Jesus did not heal her - He forgave her sins!
God knows our needs before we do, and He already knows how He will meet those needs before we lay them out before Him.
Therefore, it is no surprise that He would seem at His best when we are at our worst because everything we know about Him when things are GOOD is multiplied and magnified when we feel as though we are drowning.
He is a good God. All the time. Especially when we need Him the most.

We are commanded to pray because ... "We do not forget to eat or drink or go to work or go to our beds to rest, but we often do forget to wrestle with God in prayer and spend long periods in consecrated fellowship with our Father and our God. 
Hours for the world! Minutes for Christ! The world has the best, while prayer gets leftovers of our time. We give our strength and freshness to the ways of mammon and our tiredness to the ways of God. 
"Call upon Me," He says, for He knows that we are apt to forget."
Um, OUCH.
I am embarrassed to admit that I have been this person. Giving my “best” to earthly matters while neglecting the most important one - communion with my God.
These phrases are painfully powerful: minutes for Christ, prayer gets leftovers, give tiredness to God. Yikes.
I don’t know about you, but I am apt to forget to set aside intentional, focused time with the Lord. I pray all day, sending up petitions and pleas on behalf of others, but “wrestling with God and spending long periods in consecrated fellowship with Him?” Not nearly enough.
Oh, Lord! Teach me how to pray, and make me want to pray MORE!"

"God understands what heavy hearts we have sometimes, especially when we are under a sense of sin. Satan says to us, "Why should you pray? How can you hope to prevail? In vain you say, "I will arise and go to my Father,” for you are not worthy to be one of His hired servants. How can you see the King's face after you have played the traitor against Him? How will you dare to approach the altar when you have defiled it, and when the sacrifice that you would bring there is a polluted one?"
It is good for us that we are commanded to pray, or else in times of heaviness we might give up.
If God commands me - unfit as I may be - I will creep to the footstool of grace.
Since He says, "Pray without ceasing," though my words fail me and my heart itself will wander, yet I will still stammer out the wishes of my hungering soul: "O God, at least teach me to pray and help me to prevail with You.”
This was important for me to read.
I spent most of my life living under the heavy burden of the law and experienced very little grace.
I remember being taught that if I am in sin I may as well not pray because God won't listen to me.
Scripture DOES say this: If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. Psalm 66:18
But when you read it in context …
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.
I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me.


Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy toward me - a sinner!

This line:  If God commands me - unfit as I may be - I will creep to the footstool of grace.
WOW. This is what I needed as a child - a teen - a young adult - and every day since then!
I didn't think I was even allowed to be in the same room with God, let alone “creep to the footstool.” 
I stood on the outside looking in, drowning in guilt and shame, trying to hate my sin enough to repent and ask forgiveness so I would be welcome, once again, not only at the footstool - but at the THRONE. 
This section was like a waterfall of grace washing over my soul!
Grace, grace, God's grace, 
grace that will pardon and cleanse within; 
grace, grace, God's grace, 
grace that is greater than all our sin! 


"Praying breath is never spent in vain."
AMEN!

"To have prayed well is to have studied well." ~ Martin Luther
Love this!

"Still remember that prayer is always to be offered in submission to God's will. When we say that God hears prayer, we do not mean that He always gives us literally what we ask for. 
We do mean, however, that He gives us what is best for us and if He does not give us the mercy we ask for in silver, He bestows it upon us in gold. 
If He does not take away the thorn in the flesh, yet He says, "My grace is sufficient for thee."  
We never offer up prayer without inserting the clause ... "Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
This cannot be overlooked.
We can shake the gates of heaven and plead before the Throne until we are exhausted and spent … but unless it is the Lord’s will to grant our requests, He can, He will, and He does say, “No.”
He said “No” to His own Son when Jesus asked to be spared in the Garden of Gethsemane, so why do we expect Him to give us every desire of our hearts?
Sometimes our will matches His. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way? We must submit to Him and move forward in obedience.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8, 9

How much I enjoy this book!
And how thankful I am for godly men and women who record their thoughts and convictions about God and His Word so we may draw encouragement and strength from their experiences and push harder as we run the godly race toward the finish line. 
Spurgeon is, by far, one of my favorites!

9.09.2016

This and that.

<Deep Breath>
It's time to step into the daily routines of life once again.
I feel guilty saying those words. How can I "move on" and engage in life as usual when three families are just beginning to process and grieve the loss of a beloved man? It seems wrong. And yet, it is the natural rhythm of life.
We must live the lives God has called us to live, but we can do that while ministering to the ones who mourn, the ones who endure sleepless nights, the ones overwhelmed with emotion who wonder, "What does life look like now?!?"
"Weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn." There is no time limit. And if we are faithful, one day we will see their tears turn to smiles after the Lord has bound their wounds and restored their crushed spirits.
Thank You, Lord, for creating the body of Christ for trials such as these. May we be intentional about serving, comforting, and encouraging one another, for it does not 'just happen.' Press upon us the need to pray for a brother or sister immediately when the Spirit convicts us so we can be used to bring relief to the hurting heart that cries out to You for mercy and grace in their time of need. Thank You for being a God who is ENOUGH - just as You are. You do not need us to accomplish Your will, but You choose to use us. And we are grateful.

After a long week, I felt a great need to look at the faces of my children - all at the same time.
We have been in the same house all week, but we have not been TOGETHER.
Today I had each of them stop whatever they were doing so I could capture their smiles on film - and I am so glad I did!
I LOVE THESE FACES!
Their personalities are so varied that sometimes I forget how much they look alike. The family resemblance is pretty clear! (yes? no?)
These faces - these people - are the reason I get up each day. Loving them, training them, and teaching them is one of the greatest joys of my life. Lord, thank You for my family! Dennis, thank you for loving me, so I can love them.

~~~ Caleb is getting BAPTIZED on Sunday! Even better - he will be baptized at the beach - in the very ocean God created with a word. Family, friends and our church body will be there to support and encourage him as he makes this public profession of faith. How grateful we are that Caleb said, "Yes!" when God called him and is now willing to declare to the world that he is a child of God.

I have always known my family consumes copious amounts of fruit, and I have always wanted to document how much fruit disappears into eight Eastman mouths on a weekly basis.
The photo on the right depicts the contents of my shopping bags after my recent trip to Sprouts.
The receipt reads:
-5 lbs strawberries
-21 lbs apples
-6 lbs pears
-6 lbs grapes
-10 lbs bananas
-6 pounds peaches
-10 ears sweet corn
for a grand total of 54 pounds of fruit!
All of which will be consumed - in five days.
Perhaps it's time for the Eastmans to plant some fruit trees! <grin>

Luke has now joined the ranks of Eastman surfers.
He bought his first REAL surfboard!
Dennis has been surfing since he was 12 years old and always hoped his sons would share his love of the ocean and his obsession with waves. While they have always enjoyed the water, the surfing gene did not show itself until about a year ago - much to D's delight!
Every other Saturday the three older boys and Dennis pack the van and take off for the beach to surf away the early morning hours, and end their time talking and laughing over donuts and steaming cups of coffee.
I LOVE that they have this time together, and pray the boys will cherish these days with their dad knowing they are making memories that will last a lifetime.
I am thankful for a husband who enjoys spending time with his kids and makes every opportunity to snatch the hours available to connect with them and invest in their hearts.
I know Micah and Luke and Caleb love and respect their dad, and pray they will come to truly appreciate the sacrifices he makes - for them.

~~~ I'm not sure what kind of week you had, but I pray the Lord used any trial, sadness, difficulty, or heartache to draw you closer to Himself and remind you that you are loved, forgiven, enjoyed, and desired by a very good and holy God. We are commanded in Scripture, "In everything give thanks." But we are not commanded to give thanks FOR everything. We do not have to like, understand, or desire what is happening, but we can still lift our hands and praise God for who He is, what He does, and how He loves us. Because whether we understand His ways or not, He IS a good God - and He loves us.

O how He loves you and me, O how He loves you and me,
He gave His life, what more could He give?
O how He loves you, O how He loves me,
O how He loves you and me.

Jesus to Calvary did go, His love for mankind to show;
What He did there brought hope from despair:
O how He loves you, O how He loves me,
O how He loves you and me.

9.07.2016

Even in death - he TRUSTED.

This is it.
A lovely bouquet of flowers from Tyler's memorial service is the last tangible reminder of a week filled with sorrow and joy.
JOY because a brother in Christ has seen the face of God and is a better theologian than anyone on earth. Sorrow because those left behind must learn how to live, without him.
In a few days the petals and leaves will wither and fall, and only memories will remain.
There are dozens of memories. Probably hundreds.
Some are sweet while others are laced with grief, and each one makes up the whole of what was Tyler's last week on earth.
I was only on the outside looking in, but the things I saw, the words I overheard, and descriptions of the affection shared between everyone who entered that room could fill a journal.
There are three memories that keep replaying in my mind's eye, and every time they do I am reminded of God's goodness and grace - His provision - and His love.

The first time I walked into the hospital room was the day the doctors told the family that Tyler had only a few days to live. All of the hope from the last nine months disappeared, and despair settled over every heart at the thought of losing this precious man. Tears flowed freely, hugs lasted for long minutes at a time, and a palpable silence hung in the room - because there was nothing to say. What IS there to say at such a time? Words are inadequate. Prayers seem empty and futile. Hope is gone.
And that is when the Lord ALWAYS shows up.

As I sat on a chair holding Mariah on my lap, my eyes fell on Tyler's parents who were leaning over him with tear-stained faces, speaking tender words of love to their son. I could not hear them, but I heard Tyler reply, "I love you." More words were spoken, and then in a clear strong voice, he said, "God is in control. God is in control."
I sat there - stunned.
Tyler was the one in the hospital bed trapped in a body that was in pain, and dying, yet he was comforting his parents in their grief. And - he was trusting God.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
I will n e v e r forget that moment.

I was not the only one who witnessed Tyler's peace, his strength, and his faith. Every person who entered that room was affected by him. Whether he spoke words of encouragement or prayed, they saw his heart - and they saw his God.
There was one group of people, however, who made a profound impact on me. The Marines.
They were young, just like Tyler, except for his Gunnery Sergeant who was clearly the leader and respected by all. These men entered the hospital lobby sober and then exited the hospital room with red eyes and somber expressions. One Marine literally dropped to his knees and wept when he looked upon the face of his friend.

These men are MARINES. They are trained for battle - trained to succeed - trained to adapt and overcome. But in those few minutes in the hospital room, they knew their brother would never stand beside them in uniform again, and they were helpless. And yet, they stood firm and served the only way they could. They talked, they laughed, they encouraged Mariah ... and treated Tyler with respect in death, just as they did in life.
I have always respected our men in uniform, but last week, as I watched Marine after Marine filter through the lobby of the hospital to honor a brother, my heart was filled with PRIDE.
Men in uniform. They matter.

My favorite memory of the week happened Friday morning.
More than once we discussed the need for Tyler and Mariah to have time alone together. Even when we made a "family only" policy for visitors, the two of them were never alone. They have faithful, loving, thoughtful parents, siblings, and extended family, so there was always someone in the room to meet the needs of this sweet couple.
On Friday it became very clear that they needed time alone. NOW.
Everyone agreed, and my role was to tell Mariah what was happening. She looked at me with her huge, brown eyes and said, "It's okay. Everyone doesn't have to leave." I took a deep breath, prayed for the Lord to give me grace and said, "Sister, it wasn't a question. I am in charge of this room now. Everyone is out - and you are going to have your husband all to yourself. I will come back in an hour, and if you are not ready, just say so and I will give you more time." She gave me a sheepish smile, and I left the room.
How I wish I had a camera at the ready when I poked my head back in over an hour later!
The room was quiet except for the faint sound of worship music playing in the background. Mariah had changed her clothes and looked beautiful with her long, brown, curly hair falling over her shoulders. She was sitting on the bed holding Tyler next to her like a mother holds her child, stroking his hair, and speaking softly to him. She looked up at me with a huge, contented smile on her face, gently shook her head and said, "No. I'm not ready."
My smile matched hers as I closed the door behind me.
Oh, friends! That image! It is etched in my mind. Not only because it was beautiful, but because it is a picture of God's faithfulness.
None of us knew Tyler would take his last breath on this earth at 10:15 that night - but the Lord did. He orchestrated the details. He gave them those two hours - alone - together. He knew what this young bride needed before she did, and He provided, as He always does, faithfully - and in His perfect time.

He is a good Father - even in the hardest moments we face - He is perfect, and He loves us.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of this week. You welcomed another child into the splendor of heaven, and showed us through Tyler's unyielding trust in You that we can be as faithful in death as we are in life because there is no reason to fear when the Shepherd upholds us in the shadow of death. 


I've heard a thousand stories of what they think You're like
But I've heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
You tell me that you're pleased and that I'm never alone

You're a good, good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by You
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching for answers only You provide
Because You know just what we need before we say a word

You're a good, good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

Love so undeniable I can hardly speak
Peace so un-explainable I can hardly think
As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love.

You're a good, good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by You
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

You're a good, good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by You
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways