9.16.2019

An excellent Monday Morning meditation!

Prayer is . . .
the mightiest weapon that God has placed in our hands,
the best weapon to use in every difficulty,
the surest remedy in every trouble,
the key that unlocks the treasury of promises,
the hand that draws forth grace and help in time of need,
the silver trumpet that God commands us to sound in all our necessity,
the cry He has promised always to listen to, just as a loving mother listens attentively to the cry of her child.

Be sure that no time is so well spent, as that which a man spends on his knees.

What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others?
I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits in private prayer.
I believe that those who are not eminently holy, pray little - and those who are eminently holy, pray much.

What is the cause of most backslidings?
I believe, as a general rule, one of the chief causes is neglect of private prayer.
People are backsliders on their knees, long before they backslide openly in the eyes of the world.

Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor.
Jesus can understand you!

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2

- J. C. Ryle

9.14.2019

Easy? No. 100% absolutely worth it? YES!

A few days ago someone pronounced, "You make foster care look so easy!"
While I am confident the person meant it as a compliment, I almost choked on my drink.
Easy? As in little-or-no-effort-required easy? 
I doubt that particular adjective has ever been linked to the foster care world, and though I am not a prophet, I think it is safe to predict that they will not be linked together in the future.

The dictionary definition of "easy" reads:

easy adjective
\ ˈē-zē \
1
a: causing or involving little difficulty or discomfort
b: requiring or indicating little effort, thought, or reflection
2
a: not severe: lenient
b: not difficult to endure or undergo
3
a: marked by peace and comfort
b: not hurried or strenuous
4
a: free from pain, annoyance, or anxiety
b: marked by social ease
5
a: giving ease, comfort, or relaxation
b: not burdensome or straitened

I have not met every foster parent, foster sibling, or extended family member in the foster care world, but the ones I have met? They would laugh out loud if someone read this definition, then looked up and asked, "Isn't that a fanTAStic description of what it is like to be a foster family?!"

Is there beauty in foster care?
Overwhelming moments of sweetness and joy?
Prayers answered?
Hurdles knocked down?
Miracles performed?
Fantastic opportunities to show the love of Christ to others?
Countless opportunities to educate and promote the need for and the joy of foster care?
Spiritual growth and sanctification?
Learning to trust God in the unknown?
Increased compassion after learning the "what" of the "why?"
Multiple opportunities to sacrifice comfort and self for the good of another?
The joy of investing in the life of a child?
The joy of investing in the life of a broken and hurting birth parent?
Milestones reached?
Goals accomplished?
Emotions magnified?
Sacrificial and unconditional love understood and expressed?
Yes!
Yes!
A thousand times YES!

But that is only one side of foster care. There is another.


Isolation.
Rejection.
Disappointment.
Sorrow.
Pain.
Fear. Of the unknown and the known.
Unanswered questions.
Answers no one wants.
Anger.
Distrust.
Resentment.
Suffering.
Unmet expectations.
Loss.

Any or all of these can be experienced by the child, the birth parents, and/or the foster family. Just as the joys of foster care can touch everyone involved, the isolation and sorrow can affect everyone too.

BUT GOD.

He has not called one of His children to a life of ease.
He has not called one of His children to a life of comfort.
He has not called one of His children to live without suffering or sorrow.
In fact, not only does He call us TO suffer, He commands us to rejoice IN our suffering!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes. Psalm 119:71


Foster care may have hundreds of hurdles to clear. It may be exhausting. It may stretch us farther than we ever thought we could possibly be stretched. It may push us to constant prayer and daily surrender because of the unknowns and potential dangers. It may require that we walk alone because there are few who share our passion or want to join us. It may require a level of sacrifice we didn't know existed.
All of these things may be true.
BUT GOD. 
He demands that it be done.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:7-8

Like anything God calls us to do, we must obey. Immediately. "Delayed obedience is disobedience." (as a wise person once said) And our obedience must be tethered to purpose, passion, and JOY. For the Lord does not abandon those He calls. He equips. He encourages. He establishes our steps.
He has no choice but to do so! He is the Good Shepherd. And with the Lord as our Shepherd, we are never, ever in want.

Foster care may not be "easy," but it is wonderful. And absolutely, positively, without a single doubt, worth every second of effort, joy, sorrow, surrender, and sacrifice. And in all of it, both the delightful and the difficult, we can CHOOSE to have joy because it is not about us. It is about HIM!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. I Corinthians 15:58

9.11.2019

Green Goodness for sale!



Avocados for Sale!
2/$1.00

Pick up available any time - the bucket will be on the front porch!
Choose your favorites and leave your $$ in the envelope!
(this is the first crop - much more to come!)

We have NO idea what kind of avocados they are, but according to www.californiaavocado.com, they are one of the following varieties:
-Zutano
- Bacon
- Fuerte
(We know for sure they are not Hass avocados.)

They fall off the tree green and quite hard, but when they are ripe and ready to eat they are
de-LI-cious!

All $$ goes into our Foster Care Fund!
(yes - there is still a need!🙌🏼 🙌🏼 🙌🏼)

9.04.2019

The Eastman Academy begins its 15th year!



Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
Our 2019-2020 Student Body!

Our theme for the year: Honor through serving
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10





Josiah - 6th grade


Isaiah - 5th grade


Ellie - 4th grade


Baby E is our honorary student because it is never too early to start learning!


Caleb - 10th grade
The Lord provided a wonderful alternative school option for Caleb this year, so while he is no longer a student at The Eastman Academy, he is a student and we want to celebrate him!


Micah - our first alumnus - beginning his second year of junior college.


 Luke - our second alumnus - beginning his first year of college.


Caleb and the graduates humored me by joining us for our back-to-school photo shoot.
And it made my mother's heart quite happy!



I LOVE this photo!

9.03.2019

A new tradition!


A new tradition was started today!
A PRE-SCHOOL DAY!

Now that all of my little people are not so little anymore, I decided to include them in planning our school schedule. It is THEIR school day after all!
All of our curriculum, notebooks, backpacks, pens, pencils, scissors etc., were placed on the dining room table along with blank sheets of paper for planning.
I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were, but Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie far exceeded them! Everyone had a voice, and surprisingly, they created a schedule without one argument.
(This is NOT normal in the Eastman world!)
We planned our field trips, made a wish list, and worked all of our core subjects around Baby E’s nap times. (Homeschooling with a one-year-old running around is not easy.)
Now - we are ready for Day 1 of the 2019-2020 school year!
Let the learning BEGIN!


I let them watch a movie in the middle of the day, so this photo captures their enthusiasm!


Sometimes the simplest things bring me the greatest joy! When shopping for a new school calendar, I stumbled upon this gem and could not stop giggling every time I looked at it.
Ellie declared, “Mom! You HAVE to get the giraffe calendar! You will be happy every time you see it!”
So Clara (yes, I named her) joined our family and will make me smile as she guides us through each week of our school experience. 

My girl knows me well! Thanks, Ellie!

9.02.2019

Happy Birthday, Luke!


18 years!
18 years ago the doctor literally had to force you into the world because you were unwilling to enter on your own. The first sign that Luke Samuel Eastman had his own mind and his own agenda.
And nothing has changed since then!
You are a young man of strength.
A young man of purpose.
A young man with ideas and plans.
A young man who knows what he wants and will do whatever it takes to get it.
These are excellent qualities when tethered to Scripture, humility, and sensitivity to others, and we have always prayed you would use your strengths, skills, and plans for good, willing to surrender every one of them if the Lord turned your feet in a different direction than the one you intended to travel.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

You are adventurous.
A risk-taker.
Fiercely loyal.
A great listener.
Willing to work.
Willing to serve.
A faithful friend.

As you enter college, purpose in your heart to pursue Christ more fiercely and more passionately than you pursue a career. Seek Him first - often - and with expectation. For when you seek Him, you will find Him!

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him,
if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33
I love those who love Me, and those who seek me diligently find Me.
Proverbs 8:17

♥ I love you, Luke Samuel. ♥
And I will keep dancing with you until the end of time.
Mom

9.01.2019

This.


I need Thee every hour,
most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like Thine
can peace afford.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour,
stay Thou near by;
temptations lose their power
when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, 
in joy or pain;
come quickly, and abide,
or life is vain.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need thee every hour;
teach me Thy will,
and Thy rich promises
in me fulfill.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

8.29.2019

Thankful and BLESSED because he is here!

One month has passed since we brought Baby E home, and within the first three days, we were in
love!
Dennis and I awaken each morning to his giant smile beaming at us from across the room as he eagerly awaits being picked up and cuddled. And within minutes, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie file in and take turns greeting him, hugging him, and making him laugh. He is a rock star in the Eastman home - and he loves EVERY minute of it!

Baby E is happy, enthusiastic, active, affectionate, and continually rewards us with incredible smiles and wonderful hugs. He is the first person Caleb seeks out when he returns home, and Micah and Luke are quick to pick him up or laugh when greeted with his signature "Iron Man" move and "What's Up?" head nod. He brings joy to every Eastman and instantly draws out of our affectionate nature. The vote is unanimous! We all adore Baby E! ♥

I receive a double portion of joy because I have the privilege of spending eight hours with his mom - every week! Eight hours of watching her engage with her son. Eight hours of watching him respond to his mom. Talking, laughing, singing songs, reading books, playing games, eating, peek-a-boo, rocking together while he drinks his bottle, hugging and kissing each other. She can make him laugh so hard his smile is ready to crack his face in two. And I enjoy every.single.moment. Not only am I granted the delight of witnessing sweet exchanges between mother and son, but the Lord has also created a comfort and a trust between us. We greet each other with smiles and hugs, her son practically leaps out of my arms to get to her, and we enjoy conversation and laughter during our visits. How precious it is to be invited into the life and heart of another!

We don't know how long Baby E will be a part of our family, but we are thankful he is here now. ❤

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

Each time I pick up a child to join our family until he/she can return home, the Lord attaches a song to our meeting. The reason is not always obvious to me in the beginning but becomes as clear as crystal as the days roll on. Since music ministers to me in a unique way, I am continually thankful that the Lord chooses this medium to encourage me and draw my thoughts, emotions, and affections toward Him ... especially when they have been tempted to look elsewhere.

Only You - David Crowder
Take my heart, I lay it down
At the feet of You whose crowned
Take my life, I'm letting go
I lift it up to You who's throned
And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down before You
Only You Lord
Take my fret, take my fear
All I have, I'm leaving here
Be all my hopes, be all my dreams
Be all my delights, be my everything
And it's just You and me here now
Only You and me here now
You should see the view
When it's only You

8.27.2019

Seeking Him in the stillness.


 Sorrow and suffering ... there is no shortage.
Nor will there ever be this side of heaven.

Broken relationships.
Financial hardships.
Job difficulties.
Health struggles.
Strained marriages.
Wayward children.
Anniversaries of losses.
Rejection.
Goodbyes.

There are many ways to cope.
Many places to seek comfort.
But there is only One who can bear our burdens and heal our hurts with sovereign sufficiency.
May we seek Him in the stillness.
While He may still be found.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
Psalm 37:7

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
Exodus 14:14

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
Psalm 62:5 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Psalm 23:1

But I have calmed and quieted my soul ... like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Psalm 131:2

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
Psalm 62:5-6

8.26.2019

He knows. And He provides.


One of my favorite things about the Lord is His constant faithfulness in providing timely and fitting words of encouragement for His children. Even more precious, He prepares them before we are aware we need them!
We cannot anticipate the trials of life, but the Lord is never surprised. And He knows exactly what will bring us the most comfort in our moments of crisis. A handwritten note in the mail with the "perfect verse." A call from a friend. A sermon. A worship song. A tight hug from our strongest sister. A quote. An unexpected gift. A prayer lifted on our behalf.
Our God is faithful.
Our God is timely.
Our God is aware.
He meets us where we are, and provides what we need, just when we need it most.
Because He loves us.

He anticipated my need this very morning, using the words of a godly man who has enjoyed the splendors of heaven for almost a century, yet still affects, encourages, and challenges believers today.
I pray his words will encourage others as greatly as they encouraged me.

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

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you. John 14:27

There are times when our peace is based upon ignorance, but when we awaken to the facts of life, inner peace is impossible unless it is received from Jesus. When Our Lord speaks peace, He makes peace, His words are ever “spirit and life.” Have I ever received what Jesus speaks? “My peace I give unto you” — it is a peace which comes from looking into His face and realizing His undisturbedness.

Are you painfully disturbed just now, distracted by the waves and billows of God’s providential permission, and having, as it were, turned over the boulders of your belief, are you still finding no well of peace or joy or comfort; is all barren? Then look up and receive the undisturbedness of the Lord Jesus. Reflected peace is proof that you are right with God because you are at liberty to turn your mind to Him. If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself. If you allow anything to hide the face of Jesus Christ from you, you are either disturbed or you have a false security.

Are you looking unto Jesus now, in the immediate matter that is pressing and receiving from Him peace? If so, He will be a gracious benediction of peace in and through you. But if you try to worry it out, you obliterate Him and deserve all you get. We get disturbed because we have not been considering Him. When one confers with Jesus Christ the perplexity goes, because He has no perplexity, and our only concern is to abide in Him. Lay it all out before Him, and in the face of difficulty, bereavement and sorrow, hear Him say — “Let not your heart be troubled.”

- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Thank You, Father, for knowing what we need before we ask, and for being a God who does not hold us at arm's length, but invites us into a loving, safe, merciful, and compassionate relationship. You do not just offer the peace we crave. You ARE peace. And You are all we need.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

8.25.2019

Happy Birthday, Josiah!


12 YEARS!
The Lord has given you twelve years of LIFE!
And your life has been a blessing to our family. ♥

You are ...
incredibly affectionate
thoughtful
a servant
interested in others
curious
independent
compassionate to those who are hurting
a seeker of joy
a faithful friend
an encourager
a seeker of justice
a seeker of truth
... and we appreciate and rejoice that you possess these character qualities!

You have been a thoughtful observer since you were a toddler. You did not speak, but you took in everything going on around you with great interest. I often wondered what you were thinking and looked forward to the day when you would be able to tell me - and now you can. And do!
I love your curiosity about the world and the people around you, Josiah. I encourage you, in your observations, be sure to look at yourself first and measure what you see against the standards of Scripture. It is easy to look at everyone else, making assessments and pronouncing judgments while never searching your own heart to discover and confess your personal weaknesses and sin.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23, 24
When you search your own heart daily and let the Lord take care of everyone else, you will find great joy in the freedom that comes from possessing a correct biblical view of self, and who you are in Christ, which then creates a proper and biblical view of others.

You are valuable, Josiah Timothy.
You are worthy of love.
What you can or cannot do does not define who you are.
Who appreciates you or rejects you does not define your worth.
Christ does.
You surrendered your life to Him when you were a little boy, and you will spend the rest of your life in continual surrender to Him when you choose to die to self and submit to your Savior.
It is not easy, death to self. We want our way, and we want it now.
BUT GOD.
He says, "Take up your cross daily and follow ME. For I am the way, the truth, and the life. And I came to give you life ABUNDANT. Feed on My Word, drink from My well of living water. Do not lean on your own ways or your own intelligence, but lean wholly on Me. I know what you need before you even ask, and I know how to bear your burdens and give you the rest you need when you are weary. I am the vine and you are the branches. Abide in Me, for apart from Me you can do nothing."

I pray you will always, always, want to follow Christ, Josiah.
I pray you will be willing to fearlessly stand up for truth.
I pray you will give a voice to the voiceless and protect the innocent.
I pray you will notice those who are forgotten and neglected - and show them kindness.
The Lord has given you twelve years of life, Josiah, not for your glory, but for His.
Make your life count.
Do something that matters.
Invest your time and energy in eternal pursuits.
Encourage the disheartened.
Comfort the brokenhearted.
Urge your brothers and sisters to seek after and love God more.

You were named after a boy king who turned a rebellious people back to their God.
Your name means "God saves, God heals, God supports."
Follow in the king's footsteps, son ...
encouraging others to turn their eyes heavenward, seeking the Savior while He may still be found.

Happy 12th birthday!
♥ You are precious, Josiah Timothy Eastman, and I love you. ♥

8.19.2019

Praising in pain. Too late.

Today I am giving thanks for - STREP THROAT!
I have been down for weeks, seeing a shimmer of light break through the darkness every few days, and then BAM. Down again.
Finally, after yet another night of little sleep and the inability to swallow, I made a visit to my delightful doctor, begging her to tell me
a) "You have a head cold. Suck it up and ride it out, sister!" or b) "You need a throat transplant."
I do not need a new throat, but after 24 hours have passed, mine will no longer be causing me agony.
Perspective matters.
I know there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of people walking through far more severe physical trials. My pains and fever and sleep deprivation may not be pleasant, but they could be far worse. 
I am thankful they are not.
I sauntered out of the doctor's office with Baby E in my arms and Ellie in tow, smiling and praising God that the reason for my illness was finally revealed, and would now be remedied.
But I also had to confess my ungratefulness, for I have been frustrated with the duration and unknown details of the malady, and impatient with the healing process.
After my saunter turned into sitting as I held the wheel of the Thunder Bus, two verses rang loudly in my ears:
"Do EVERYthing without complaining or arguing," Philippians 2:14
"In EVERYthing give thanks," I Thessalonians 5:18
"I hear You, Lord. Forgive me for refusing to praise You in the valley, and thank You, for strep throat."

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19, 20

Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 106:1

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! Psalm 100:4

8.18.2019

Dennis reunites with the country of Jordan!


Dennis was graciously invited to return to the country of Jordan to teach, train, and encourage educators, politicians, and royalty about the vital need to not only include students with special needs and learning needs in the classroom but to receive them with JOY. He spent weeks preparing and praying, trusting the Lord would guide the details of his presentations, his breakout activities, and his ability to encourage and support those who serve these students every day - and - those who have the power to affect lasting change.

When he arrived in Jordan, I asked him to describe the "what" and the "why" of his trip.
This was his response:
"The "what" is to assist in equipping teachers to serve ALL learners in the general education classroom. The "why" is found in Matthew 11:28-30 and Proverbs 31:8-9. 
'Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.' (Matthew 11)
'Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.' (Proverbs 31)

This school is among one of the few Christian schools in the country that is actively pursuing inclusive education for all students. As a result, by God's grace, they have been able to boldly share Christ to those who come in the door and tearfully and gratefully ask, "What motivates you to do this for these children?" 
Being in the midst of this harvest is not only inspiring but incredibly humbling. This group deflects praise to themselves and directs it to God. They are on the front lines everyday exercising their faith and loving on kids. The result? People coming to ask, "Why???"
Because God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, and He loves us and lives in us. That's why."

I LOVE this!

I also asked Dennis to send a description of his presentations. After reading them, I smiled. This is what my husband was made to do. Teach, encourage, and inspire! And he does it WELL! ♥

“I have the right to learn!” Looking Beyond Challenges into Strengths & Talents
The intended goal of every educator is student learning. However, without planning, teaching becomes like a long road trip minus a map, where one or two wrong turns can mean the difference between arriving at your destination or an unintended off-road experience. A crucial element in creating an effective learning experience must begin with knowing and planning for the students who will be in your class. This seminar will explore some of the key elements the instructor can do to prepare to teach ALL learners.

Mindful & Social Emotional Learning Strategies in the Inclusive Classroom
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions (CASEL.org). This interactive workshop will provide instructors with practical skills to effectively assist students in problem-solving, managing emotions, and communication. 

Foundational Practices and Strategies in the Inclusive Classroom
Best practices are consistently student-centered, cognitively appropriate, interactive, and are intentionally planned to serve all students well. This workshop is designed to reinforce foundational practices with interactive strategies that are essential to meeting the needs of all learners.

Made to Move: Strategies to Assist Students with ADHD
This seminar will equip educators to identify areas of student strength and share practical tools to assist students with ADHD with readily identified behavior issues and academic areas such as memory deficits, organization, and self-management.

Classroom Management - Refocusing on What Motivates Behavior: Peeling back the multiple layers of misbehavior in the classroom to cultivate an effective learning environment.
From time to time, many educators find themselves in a classroom where management appears impossible. Disruptions and relational dynamics seem to clash with good pedagogy and great intentions. This seminar will discuss student emotion, motivation and behavior, and tips for succeeding in the challenging classroom environment.

"Is this on the test?" Practical Strategies for Formal and Informal Assessment
Each day a student sits in class they have the potential to communicate a message to the instructor about their level of interest, distraction, or frustration. They also display their capacity for time on task, willingness to participate, and comprehension of the material being presented. To determine the effectiveness of instruction it is essential to measure student-learning outcomes. There are numerous means in which to collect evaluation data, however, it is important to note that multiple measures should be considered rather than a “one size fits all” strategy. This seminar will offer a variety of formal and informal techniques to check for student understanding.

The Power of Self-Reflection
How do you know your lesson was effective? Are the strategies you are using meeting the needs of students? Were the students engaged in the lesson?
Improvement begins with identifying and addressing the areas in which you are in need of growth. Self-reflection provides an opportunity to evaluate your performance in a timely manner to maximize your ability to serve all students. This seminar will introduce ways in which a teacher can practically improve performance within their grade level or subject area to more practically impact the lives of students. 

8.14.2019

Encouraged by a small, wrapped package.

Yesterday, after asking two dear friends to pray for us as we walk through a trying time of sickness
and struggles, one of them surprised and blessed our family when she delivered a hot, delicious dinner to our door. Since most of my family members inhale food rather than chew it, the food was consumed immediately - and enjoyed thoroughly!
Amid the chaos of dinner, bath time for Baby E, and preparing for the next day, a small wrapped package was overlooked. But in a quiet moment it was discovered, opened, and the contents revealed.
A gift! For me!
What FUN!
Three bracelets were wrapped around a tiny pillow, with a phrase etched into each piece.
I smiled when I read the words because not only did they reflect the heart of the woman who gave them to me, they were fitting encouragements for this season of my life. I read the words over and over, and while doing so, Scripture verses began floating through my mind.
This afternoon, I was finally able to link the words on the bracelets with God's words, and the process was a delight!

● MAKE every day COUNT 
Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

● KIND HEART 
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

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

● BRAVE SPIRIT 
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

● YOU GOT THIS 
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Thank You, Lord, for knowing what we need before we even ask. Thank You for putting our names on the hearts of our brothers and sisters so we can be encouraged and stirred up to love and good deeds because of their acts of kindness. Thank You for filling Your Word with truth so we may be strengthened by those truths when we do not feel strong. Thank You for giving man the ability to create beauty in the form of art so we can be refreshed by such beauty, mind, body, and spirit. Thank You for giving us the courage to say, "I need you," even though our pride says, "I'm fine." Thank You for giving man the ability to express thoughts so others can benefit from the timely and fitting words. And thank You, Lord,  for being a God who desires to give good things to His children, including things that come in small, wrapped packages.♥

8.05.2019

Orion!




Every time I look at these comparison photos of Orion’s size,
I am sooooo thankful that humans to do not grow at the same rate as canines.
Can you IMAGINE?!?
😜😂🤣😆😁
Every three months he seems to triple in size.
As does our affection for him.💙

We cannot WAIT to see Orion’s final stats when he is fully grown!

8.01.2019

Excellent (and much needed) encouragement!

As a wise, skilled pharmacist mixes medicine - so our heavenly Father wisely mixes exactly the right measure of bitter things and sweet, to do us good.

Too much joy would intoxicate us.
Too much misery would drive us to despair.

Too much sorrow would crush us.
Too much suffering would break our spirits.

Too much pleasure would ruin us.
Too much defeat would discourage us.

Too much success would puff us up.
Too much failure would keep us from doing anything.

Too much criticism would harden us.
Too much praise would exalt us.

Our great God knows exactly what we need.

His Providence is wisely designed and sovereignly sent for our good!

Let God send and do whatever He wills - by His grace, if we are His, we will face it, bow to it, accept it, and give thanks for it. God's Providence is always executed in the 'wisest manner' possible. We are often unable to see and understand the reasons and causes for specific events in our lives, in the lives of others, or in the history of the world. But our lack of understanding does not prevent us from believing God.

"We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

- Don Fortner

7.30.2019

Ellie's best birthday!


Yesterday morning, on Ellie’s birthday, I asked,
“Wouldn’t it be SO COOL if the Lord brought us a foster baby on your birthday?!?”
She enthusiastically nodded her head and grinned from EAR to EAR!

And then, two hours later, on the way to a birthday lunch/swim party at my sister’s house - we got a call - and Baby E joined our family in the afternoon!

To quote Ellie: “This was my best birthday EVER!!!!”

We will always weep for the “why” of foster care, but we will also rejoice that we are able to care for these precious lives when the Lord brings them into our family - until they are able to go home.❤

(Public photos of foster children are not allowed, so we are going to get very creative using feet!)

7.29.2019

Happy Birthday, Ellie!


Nine years!
It has been nine years since the Lord gave us the daughter we never thought we would have
and the daughter we didn't know we NEEDED.
He gave us our Ellie! ❤

You are a composite of every other Eastman.
Every single quality you possess can be linked to your dad, to me, or to your brothers.
Yet you are 100% uniquely YOU!
And perfectly happy to be so.

Bursting with energy.
Thoughtful.
Fun.
Inquisitive.
Aware.
Intelligent.
Strong.
Intense.
Stubborn.
A leader.
Quick to laugh.
Compassionate.
Sensitive.
Empathetic.
Unyielding.
Uninhibited.
Affectionate.

You are all of these things and more, Ellie Ruth Eastman!

We have no idea what the Lord has planned for your life, but we are confident He is going to do something unique, for He did not place you at the end of a string of five older brothers without a purpose!
You are absolutely fearless, willing to stand up to the greatest opposition without giving one thought to the consequences. While this does not always bode well for you in our home <grin>, it is a
quality that allows people to remain steadfast and immovable in the face of tremendous obstacles.
You do not accept, "You can't." Ever.
Your mind races, always looking for another way to get around the barrier in front of you, and it does not stop until you have found the solution. This really is an amazing skill, Ellie, and we pray the Lord will sanctify this character quality so it can be used to wonderfully benefit others and bring Him glory.

We still remember laughing when the doctor declared, "You're having a girl!"
(Even the medical community thought the female gene did not exist in our family pool!)
But the Lord knew.
He knew we needed you.
He has been teaching, refining, stretching, and blessing us since the day we saw your face for the first time.
And we are, and always will be, forever grateful. ❤

We love you, Ellie Ruth!
Happy 9th Birthday!

7.17.2019

Celebrating 26 years of MARRIAGE!


Today we spent time talking about our life together as husband and wife and had fun making a list of the ways the Lord has worked in us - together - these past 26 years.
He has walked with us always, for on our own we would not have made it past year two.
In our foolishness, our pride, our selfishness - He was there.
Always prodding, always challenging, always convicting, always encouraging.
Dennis and I are not celebrating 26 years of marriage today because of anything we have done.
We are celebrating 26 years of marriage because of a faithful God who absolutely refused to let us go.
It is because of Him, and Him alone, that our commitment to, our faithfulness in, and our love for one another stands firm.
We are and will remain, forever grateful to God for such a gift.

❤ 26 Reasons To Praise God On Our Anniversary! 

1. He has given us seven wonderful children, six of whom we have enjoyed on earth, and one who has only known the beauty of heaven.
2. We are not the same people who said, "I do" two decades ago. The Lord has changed us and grown us and stretched us beyond what we could have imagined.
3. We appreciate each other more than we did when we were young.
4. We have learned how to disagree (dare we say fight?) respectfully.
5. We have made many wonderful memories together.
6. We have learned how to overlook offenses instead of dying on every hill.
7. Respectful, thoughtful communication became a priority after years of apathy.
8. We learned how to listen to each other.
9. When one is in the depths of despair, the other knows how to pull him/her out.
10. Each of us has an enthusiastic, never-tiring cheerleader to scream, "Keep going! You can DO THIS!" when one of us wants to quit.
11. We have learned how to forgive harsh offenses and deep hurts.
12. He taught us how to embrace our differences instead of fight against them.
13. When we lost Matthew, He caused us to cling to one another instead of pushing each other away.
14. He has given us the desire of our hearts by allowing us to become a foster family!
15. He has used us to refine one another, constantly sanding the rough edges to remove more of "self."
16. We have suffered together in the fire of affliction and come out of the flames stronger.
17. We laugh together.
18. We weep together.
19. We pray together.
20. We have enjoyed beautiful friendships with godly couples who make us better.
21. Trust has been earned, appreciated, and cherished after being taken for granted for far too long.
22. He has planted us in a God-fearing, biblical-teaching, faithfully-led church and an amazing church body with whom we worship and learn and serve.
23. He has blessed us with a godly couple who disciples, prays for, rebukes, challenges, rejoices and weeps with, and encourages us to know and love God more; and therefore, view each other and our children through a biblical lens.
24. We seek each other's counsel and respect one another's perspective.
25. Being complete opposites has taught us to see life through different eyes instead of assuming there is only "one way." And doing so has made life much more colorful and exciting!
26. We have learned that the best thing we can do for our marriage is to seek Christ first and foremost because when He is our focus, all of the details of life sort themselves out and stay in their proper place.

Happy Anniversary, Dennis Eastman!
Today I am praising God that He purposefully chose us for each other. We had no idea what we were signing up for when we said, "I do," twenty-six years ago, but the Lord DID!
And praise Him - He is not finished with us yet!
I love you. ♥ Michelle

7.16.2019

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!

7.15.2019

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 

7.11.2019

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

7.09.2019

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.