5.26.2017

Ministering to the suffering heart.

I am studying the book of Job with a sweet sister and the last few weeks of study have revealed a fascinating perspective about ministry which I have never noticed in previous readings of this wonderful book. (I love that God's Word is ALIVE and ACTIVE!) 
When someone is suffering, there is not only “a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3),” there is a WAY to speak! As Ephesians 4:29 commands, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for EDIFICATION that it may bring GRACE to those who hear it.

Jobs friends started well as we see in chapter two.
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
This is a beautiful beginning!

But it did not last.
Once Job shows vulnerability, confessing his sorrow, frustration, and woe, his friends do not maintain their silence, their sympathy, or their comfort. They open their mouths, not to comfort, but to criticize. And often, they wrap their critique in biblical truth.
For example, Zophar replies to Job:
Can you search out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than heaven— what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol— what can you know?
If you would prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward Him;
If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away,
And would not let wickedness dwell in your tents;
Then surely you could lift up your face without spot;
Yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear;
Because you would forget your misery,
Though you were dark, you would be like the morning.
And you would be secure, because there is hope;
Yes, you would dig around you, and take your rest in safety. Job 11

Zophar spoke truth and his doctrine was sound. So what was his error? He spoke with judgment and condemnation instead of love. His words were as a noisy gong or clanging symbol. (I Cor 13)
If only Zohar had said, “Job. Brother! Friend! I cannot imagine the sorrow and pain you are experiencing right now. I have never suffered as you are suffering, so I do not understand. There is nothing I can say to make it better or restore what you have lost so I will do the only thing I can. I will pray for you, and I will encourage you with God’s promises.” 
What a difference that would have made!

But alas, he did not approach his friend in this gracious manner, causing Job to respond like this:
Then Job answered and said,
“No doubt you are the (only) people, and wisdom will die with you!
But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Indeed, who does not know such things as these? Job 12:1-3

I love this glimpse into Job's human nature. Do you hear his sarcasm? 
He has been enduring the arrogant, less-than-helpful, and ignorant critiques of his friends since chapter four and he is running short on patience.
Job responds to his friends for several chapters, but this is my summation of what he said.
“Um, guys? Remember how God describes me? There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. Job 1 
I do not need a theology lesson right now. Everything I own has been stripped from me, and everyone I love, except my wife, is gone. 'I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.' I do not need doctrine. I need friends. I need you to listen … empathize … and pray for me. I am not asking you to fix what happened or diagnose me. Just LISTEN. Encourage me. Remind me of God’s promises and the truth in His Word. I know Him, I love Him, I trust Him, and I am counted as righteous before Him. He has allowed these trials for a reason, and though I do not like it, or even understand it, I know that He is God and I am not - so I will praise Him in the middle of the storm. He will take care of me as He has always been faithful to do. All I need from YOU - is friendship. Can you do that?

The memory of learning the important difference between these methods of ministry when I was in college is vivid. I remember the class, the professor, the conversations, and the Scriptures used to teach us how to minister to someone who is suffering. I am incredibly embarrassed to admit that it took me well over a decade to fully embrace and apply the lessons learned, but the Lord has confirmed them over and over again through the many counseling experiences He has allowed me to be a part of through the years. 
If I start banging the Bible over the head of a hurting sister sitting across from me, saying, “You know what Scripture says! DO IT!” I create an atmosphere that lacks compassion and grace. But - if I listen - seek to understand her pain - ask questions to draw out her heart - and tell her how sorry I am, I build trust. And once that happens, my sister is willing to hear me speak God’s truth, even when it is hard to hear. 

Paul confirms this in I Thessalonians 2 when he says, For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
When we encourage and comfort a wounded, suffering, hurting person first ...
embracing them
listening as they express their sorrow
weeping with them
praying with them
serving them ...
we create trust - and connection - and THEN we can speak the truth of Scripture in a way that will be received with acceptance and grace. And this is always the goal! For without the beautiful truth of God's love, forgiveness, and mercy, our words are empty and without purpose. Hurting people need Jesus. It is our job to place them before Him - and then let Him do His work.

We are not perfect. Sometimes we wound and disappoint others out of simple ignorance, not malice. Other times it is our pride that causes thoughtless, ineffective, and hurtful comments to penetrate the heart of a suffering friend. Praise God that He offers to give us wisdom in abundance, without rebuke, as many times as we ask, so we may know when to speak and when to be silent, and when to speak words that edify and give grace. "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3

5.24.2017

I love when He does this!

One of my favorite things about Scripture is that it is LIVING and ACTIVE.
Whether you read a verse for the first time or the 91st time - it always hits the target of your heart. God promises this, doesn't He? 
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12, 13
Of course, there are times we wish Scripture was inactive so we did not have to feel the sting of conviction that truth inflicts, but there are few things in life as sweet as opening the Bible and reading exactly what we need in that moment. Encouragement, comfort, strength, a reminder to rejoice ... all of them given by a God who meets us where we are and delights in giving good things to His children. Including His own words!

This very thing happened last night.

We have committed to a monthly Mom's Night for our Orphan Care families since the first one was such an encouragement and such a success. Last night was our second evening together, so I wanted to prepare something from Scripture to share with the ladies. I did not have a direction or a plan but knew I wanted to find a passage that would offer refreshment.
As I read through the Psalms of the day, the Lord hit 'pause' in two places - Psalm 23 and Psalm 113. I could not see the correlation between the two passages, but He would not let me move elsewhere, so I read them again, bookmarked them, and said, "Okay, Lord! Do with these what You will!"

For three hours I sat with my sisters as we discussed ... the interest and enthusiasm for orphan care that is beginning to take hold of our church body, the joys and sorrows of foster care, the strain and stress on marriage that comes with having the government set up camp in your living room, the frustrations of the system, the heartache of having to lose a child you thought you could adopt, the reality of needing boundaries and wisdom to know when to say 'yes' or 'no' to a placement, the highs and lows of our personal marriages, the intense spiritual battle that surrounds orphan care, the need for and the lack of compassion and empathy, and the many needs of our own ten families who are currently caring for orphans or waiting for the children God has for them.
And as we talked, the purpose of the two passages became crystal clear.

First, when we are living in the middle of difficult circumstances and intense trials, we must remember to whom we belong - a powerful, loving, gracious, amazing, and sovereign God who is in control. We may not always be able to recognize His hands at work, but He IS always working.
Psalm 113 is a wonderful reminder of this truth!

Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! 
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore! 
From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! 
The Lord is high above all nations, 
and His glory above the heavens! 
Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, 
who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? 
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, 
to make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people. 
He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

As comforting as it is to know that we belong to a God who holds the oceans in the palm of His hand and uses the earth as a footstool, sometimes we need to be reminded that He is a personal God. A God who cares about our needs, our emotions, our fears, and our sorrows. 
Psalm 23 is perfect!
This Psalm has been a part of my memory since I was a child, but never have I read it from the perspective of intimacy. I always viewed it through the eyes of God's provision and goodness, but my goodness - it is so PERSONAL!

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Even 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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Thank You, Lord, that You are a God of power and might who knows all things and tells the sun when to shine and the winds where to blow. And thank You for being a God who combines His sovereignty with love and pours His grace upon His children every day with mercies that are new and forgiveness that is real. Blessed be the name of the Lord! The Lord who restores our souls. 

Quote. He gives us what we need!

Instead of a river, God often gives us a brook - which may be running today, and dried up tomorrow.
Why?
To teach us not to rest in our blessings - but in the blesser Himself.
Arthur Pink

"Hold me up - and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117

"So do not fear - for I am with you! Do not be dismayed - for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!" Isaiah 41:10

5.22.2017

I found the answer.

Every Sunday morning my phone alarm wakes me up at 6:45 a.m. with the words of the song "Lord, I Need You" floating through the air. I am not sure why I selected that song out of a playlist of 100+ options, other than the fact that it is one of my favorites, but I did.
I have listened to it week after week (more than once each Sunday since I always hit 'snooze'), but it was not until yesterday that I realized that it is an absolutely perfect song with which to begin each day.

I fail as a parent. Daily. Hourly. And sometimes - before I even get out of bed.
I search Scripture, I pray, I read books on parenting written by godly men and women, and I seek counsel from mature believers in order to discover any blind spots in my parenting so I can be aware of my weaknesses, intentionally "put off" my sin, and replace it with correct thinking, attitudes, and actions.
And yet ...
I find myself banging my head against the same brick wall that I banged it on yesterday. And the day before that.
Why, Lord? What am I missing?!?

Yesterday morning, He answered that question.
The answer is in a line of the song ...
And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You, Jesus, You're my hope and stay.

When I CANNOT STAND.

How easy it is to think we can.
Life experience
Intelligence
Skills
Strengths ...
these fool us into thinking we are self-sufficient. That we can "do it on our own" because we have been successful in the past. Regardless of why we think we can do it on our own, or why we believe we are strong enough, the truth is that we can do nothing without Christ. And anything we can do, any success we have is because it is done through Him. Scripture tells us this in John 15:5. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

There is another line in the song that echoes this same thought.
Without You I fall apart, You're the One that guides my heart.

"Without ME you can do NOTHING," Jesus said.
So why do I try?
Without spending any time thinking through the past week I can tell you that I parented with 90% of my own strength. My own abilities. My own intelligence, problem-solving skills, and wisdom. Does the Lord give us these gifts, having created us with a purpose and in His own image? Absolutely! Mankind is able to accomplish great things because of the way the Lord allows our minds and hands to work. Including parenting our children. But we cannot take the credit.
"Rejoice IN THE LORD," Scripture says.
"Every good and perfect gift comes from ABOVE."
"I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST, who gives me strength."
"Trust the LORD with all your heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding."

The brick wall that I continue to bang my forehead against was built with my own pride.
Every time I thought I had the answers, every time I thought knew best, every time I searched through my personal pool of shallow wisdom instead of seeking the Lord ... another brick was added.
Thankfully, the wall has been destroyed many times after the Lord revealed my pride and showed me that I was trying to parent my children my way rather than His. He kicks the first hole in the middle of it and then lets me join Him as we pull the entire thing down to the ground. But slowly, one brick at a time, I always rebuild the wall.
And I am exhausted.

But praise Him - He is a gracious God!
Every time He helps me pull apart the bricks, I look at Him with tears in my eyes and say, "I'm sorry, Lord. Again. I know I cannot do this without You, but still, I try. It's not worth it. I work too hard in my own strength, failing because I went ahead of You, and then waste more time demolishing the very wall that I created with my own hands. When will I learn, Lord? Teach me how to recognize my need for You. I am weary and worn and cannot keep doing things my way."
And that is when He leans down, with His arms stretched wide and says, "Come, Michelle. You are weary and heavy-laden, and I promised I would give you rest. Your burden is heavy and your yoke is choking you, but Mine ... Mine is easy. You can learn from Me because I am a gentle teacher, and you will find the peace and rest you long for."

And the words of this song roll through my mind as I settle in the comfort of His embrace.

Lord, I Need You (← click to listen)

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You're the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You
Jesus, You're my hope and stay

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

5.19.2017

This and that.

Happy Friday!
What a wonderful week this has been. Slow, simple, quiet, and relaxing.
I surprised Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie with a week OFF of school. We finished our main curriculum early, so it seemed like a fun idea to bask in a week of leisure. We all needed it - and we all ENJOYED it!
Our entire weekend will follow the same pattern, and we are thankful!

Today marked the end of the Government & Economics class.
Dr. E, as the students know him, spent the year educating twelve high school students about the inner workings of our political system, and enlightened them about the realities of money. The best project he gives them is a Personal Finance Project. They are given a career and a salary and must create an entire yearly budget based on that number. Everything must be included from rent to movie tickets. Teens often *think* they know what it takes to live on their own, but seeing the truth in black and white on a budget sheet opens their eyes to TRUTH.
My personal favorite of the class? Every morning Dennis marched the students outside where they would say the Pledge of Allegiance. In a time when many rage against the democratic system that keeps them free, I appreciate that my husband unapologetically honors our country, our government, and our freedom just as Scripture commands. Fear God. Honor the emperor. I Peter 2:17 
His students will always remember this!

Ellie had her first Salon experience this week.
When my stylist told me she charges the same price for a haircut for her long-time faithful clients as the discount hair places, I scheduled an appointment immediately!
Ellie's hair is thick and curly enough to create tangles that cause fights and tears with the hairbrush. Every - single - morning.
But after an excellent cut, several layers, new product, and those delightful thinning shears, Ellie walked out of the salon with wonderfully manageable hair.
Today she came out with wet hair and her brush to say, "Look! It goes right through!" as she effortlessly brushed through her locks. YES!
Welcome to the world of Salon living, Ellie!

~~~~ ~~~~ We have our Orphan Care Date Night tomorrow!
God is moving in our ministry, in our families, and in our church. PRAISE HIM! PRAISE HIM!
We have had six children adopted into their forever homes in the last six months, and one more is waiting for the court date to make her a forever part of her family. Thank You, Lord!
We have had three placements in the past three months, one who is in direct route to adoption.
There are tens of thousands of foster children and orphans right here in California, and one by one our church families are taking them in and loving them as their own.
What a privilege it is to walk alongside these families! ❤

~~~~ If you or anyone you know struggles with depression, anxiety, and/or fear, I highly recommend
these books.
We have no problem with someone getting a pacemaker to keep their heart in rhythm, glasses to help them see, or shots to keep their blood levels in check, but we are quick to judge those who need help keeping their minds working as they ought.
Sin did not just break bodies, it broke minds. And millions of people suffer the effects of both.

Charles Spurgeon is probably the most famous Christian who openly shared about his unending battle with depression this side of heaven. He has many excellent sermons and quotes on the topic, and I selected these two to share with the hope they will encourage someone today.

I know, perhaps as well as anyone, what depression means, and what it is to feel myself sinking lower and lower. Yet at the worst, when I reach the lowest depths, I have an inward peace which no pain or depression can in the least disturb. Trusting in Jesus Christ my Savior, there is still a blessed quietness in the deep caverns of my soul, though upon the surface, a rough tempest may be raging, and there may be little apparent calm. -Charles Spurgeon

“O dear friend, when thy grief presses thee to the very dust, worship there!” -Charles Spurgeon

We said good-bye to our ducklings today.
They brought us such joy, and we are thankful we had the opportunity to witness life break forth from a little, white shell and watch the ducklings grow and change before our very eyes.
I love that God created animals for man to enjoy. And He did so with such diversity and beauty! Even five ducklings had different personalities, looks, and sounds. He could have made them all the same, but He didn't. He created them for His glory and our delight. Thank You, Lord!
(We did not cry when we had to leave them at the feed store, but Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie kissed them goodbye, and my throat tightened a bit.) They will be missed!

~~~~ Happy Weekend to you!
And remember - you can make a difference EVERY DAY. It may not be noticed by the world, but it will make a difference in the life of the one who received your kindness - and always brings glory to God. ♥

5.18.2017

His beauty - His Time.


He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Lord, thank You for creating beauty everywhere.
It is not hard to find and it is easy to enjoy.
Teach us to appreciate beauty so we are quick to offer Praise to the One who made it.
And Lord, teach us how to see the beauty that lies deep within the seemingly unattractive.
Diamonds hide in rocks, pearls hide in plain-looking oysters, and flowers hide in the dirt until it is time to push through the soil and show their colors.
So too, with people.
A gentle, compassionate heart hides behind a larger-than-life and loud personality.
A theologian hides in a fidgeting junior high boy.
A prayer warrior hides in a leather-clad, tattooed, Harley-riding biker.
A medical genius hides in the stuttering, socially awkward college student.
A writer of profound biblical insight hides in the depression of the middle-aged pastor.
We cannot always see the beauty that lies within - but You see it, Lord!
And when You are ready, You let that beauty shine 
because You make EVERYTHING beautiful -
in YOUR time.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3

5.17.2017

Honoring the ministry of a beloved brother in Christ.


 Tonight we honored the ministry of a young man who has made a significant impact in the lives of our youth, faithfully preaching the Word of God, continually pushing their thoughts toward Christ, and intentionally challenging them to pursue Christ - with passion and purpose.

Scripture says, "Let another praise you, not your own lips." Proverbs 27:2
Justin lives this verse.
He serves faithfully.
Studies with solid focus.
Invests willingly.
Prays passionately.
Encourages constantly.
Responds with grace.
And he does it all in silence, never seeking attention or praise, faithfully completing the tasks God places before him with diligence and joy.

As a sister in Christ, I love him and appreciate his passion for God's Word. The first time I ever talked to Justin I asked, "What is your ministry goal?" to which he responded, "My desire is to raise the theological literacy of the church." And he has achieved this goal in the lives of our youth.

As a peer in leadership, I respect him and appreciate his ability to lead with quiet strength.

As a mother with young men under his leadership, I trust him.
Micah and Luke sought his counsel on important topics and never for a moment did I concern myself with his response, for I knew it would be biblical, sound, and wise. Both boys can repeat what Justin told them with precise detail because he speaks with teens in a way that grabs their attention, challenges their thinking, and is not forgotten.

The Lord blessed us with your presence, Justin, and the impact you had on our youth group and our family will be not only be remembered - it will be cherished.
We love you and we look forward to seeing how the Lord continues to mature you in the faith as you run after Him - harder today than you did yesterday.

❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤




5.14.2017

Mother's Day!


Mother's Day began with ... sleeping in (woohoo!), breakfast together,
and a beautiful morning enjoying God's creation at the beach.
We stumbled onto this lovely spot full of rocks to climb and explore and had to capture it on film.
The wind was blowing like crazy, and we only had the iPhone camera which has horrible zoom capabilities, yet Dennis managed to capture a shot of me and our children to mark the occasion.








I love these six people!


We hosted a Mother's Day dinner in the evening.
Our brother-in-law, Doug, smoked a delicious brisket for us, and we topped off the meal with a chocolate fudge cake from one of our favorite bakeries.
It was nice spending Mother's Day with my mom and my sister!










Without this man, I could not do what I do.
He supports me, encourages me, pushes me, forgives me, and loves me - even when I don't deserve it.
Thank you, Dennis. For EVERYthing.
I love you.

5.12.2017

This and that.

It's Friday!
A whole weekend ahead of us with plenty of enjoyment to be had.
We kick it off tonight by spending an evening with some dear friends and end with a Mother's Day celebration on Sunday.
Fun and rest seem all the sweeter after a week of hard work, don't they?

My gratefulness for the body of Christ seems to increase with my age. In the past week, we have needed a plumber, a therapist, a dermatologist, a car salesman, a network for a part-time job search, and prayer, and every single one was met through our brothers and sisters in Christ. A referral here, advice there, and prayer mixed in between. Thank You, Lord, for the beauty and joy of the body! You are all-sufficient to meet our every need, yet You give us people to join You in Your work. You don't have to - but You do! Thank You.

Meet our ducklings!
Mark
Jacob
Joshua
Iris
Mary

We have been enjoying them immensely these past two weeks! And since we actually know what we are doing this time, we have them on a feeding/playing/sleeping schedule! When it is time to eat the squawk like crazy, and when they are ready to be held they chirp in a way that says, "We want attention! Play with us!"
This experiment has been so much FUN!

~~~ The Summer Schedule (for Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie) is DONE!
- 4 days peer week
- 2-3 hours per day
- One week off each month
Bible (we have a new book!), a unit study on character, math, and geography through literature. I am so excited!
The Eastman Academy does not close for the summer.
A) There are no crops to harvest (the original reason for summer break).
B) In the real world, no one except royalty and Mr. Darcy get to spend three months doing absolutely nothing, and we want our children to be prepared for the real world.
C) A productive summer allows for a lighter fall/spring academic schedule and gives us the opportunity to focus on something that didn't quite fit into our school year.
D) My children need structure and order or they fall apart.

Micah, Luke, and Caleb have a Summer Reading List and Math to accomplish each day, but all other scholastic studies will be set aside for the next three months while they WORK.
Micah asked to increase his hours to 20-25 hours per week at Chick-fil-A, and Luke will spend his second summer as the helpful sidekick of our friend who has graciously allowed him to work with him at his storage facilities. Our guys are so thankful for these jobs!

~~~ Josiah experienced something new and interesting on Thursday!
A friend sent me a message announcing that her seamstress friend needed a "size 12 boy" as a fit model for a boys clothing line and was I interested? Sure! Why not?
Jennifer invited us to her workshop so she could measure Josiah herself and determine if his body was "industry standard."
She was a deLIGHTful woman, full of energy and joy, and made the whole process pleasantly fun.
She took pictures, measured Josiah from head to foot, explained the ins and outs of the industry, walked us to the door, and told us she would contact me within the week if Josiah was chosen.
Chosen? I had no idea this was a "cast call!" #howdidInotcatchthisdetail
Children grow and change so quickly the seamstresses must replace their male/female fit models on a regular basis, whereas their adult fit models can work for years since they maintain size and stature.
"Really?" I asked. "Talk about pressure to stay the same size day after day, year after year!"
Jennifer said, "Yes. Even two inches can ruin an entire design, so if they fluctuate we have to find a new model."
I laughed OUT LOUD and said, "HA! I can change two inches after one really good Mexican dinner!"
It was an educational event, to be sure, and I think I will appreciate clothing a little more now that I know how much happens between the designer's sketch and the store shelf!

Honestly, I am not sure who enjoys our ducklings more. Me or the kids!
They make me smile and laugh.
Even watching them eat and drink is entertaining for they have a unique style and they do it with gusto!
My favorite part, however, is holding them. They start off chirping and climbing all over me (including in my hair) but then they settle in, get cozy, and fall asleep right in my hands.
Such a sweet time with God's creation!

~~~ Our Orphan Care ministry is exciting right now. So much is happening!
New placements, God moving on behalf of children who are being held up in the bureaucracy of the system, and six adoptions in the last six months for three of our church families.
God is good and He is truly the Father of the fatherless!
Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song to Him who rides through the deserts; His name is the Lord; exult before Him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation. Psalm 68:4-5


~~~ Mother's Day.
A day that finds women rejoicing ~ and weeping.
Mother's Day is not a joyful one for many, many women.
Pray for those with empty arms.
Pray for those who have lost their own mothers, or are estranged from them.
Pray for those whose children are rebellious and angry and want nothing to do with them.
And before you walk into the church sanctuary or arrive at a brunch, ask the Lord to help you SEE the woman who needs extra kindness on Sunday. A word - a touch - a smile - a hug.
For, as Scripture says,
Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13

5.11.2017

He is lovely - and He is our God!


These are my favorite roses from my aunt's garden which lines our entire front yard. Her mother spent years toiling in the dirt while the sun beat on her back and the wind blew in her face. She loved her roses. Dozens of bushes were planted with loving care and thoroughly enjoyed for decades by the keen eyes that desired beauty all around her. And now, we are able to enjoy the fruits of her labor as new flowers show themselves each season reminding us of God's creative and beautiful design. Such a privilege!

I've been saving this image to pair with a wonderful quote, and the Lord has provided!
I hope it will encourage someone who needs to be reminded that our God is, indeed - LOVELY!

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

O what a Savior is Jesus Christ! He is the chief among ten thousand! Look at His sinless, yet real humanity - without a single taint, yet sympathizing with us in all our various conditions - our afflictions - our temptations - our infirmities - our griefs. Now that He is in glory, He is still cherishing a brother's heart - bending down His ear to our petitions - ever standing near . . .
to catch our sighs,
to dry our tears,
to provide for our needs,
to guide us by His counsel, and
afterward to receive us to glory!

O what a Savior is Jesus Christ!

When He is known - all other beings are eclipsed.

When His beauty is seen - all other beauty fades.

When His love is felt - He becomes supremely enthroned in the affections.

To know Him more becomes the one desire of the renewed mind, and to make Him more known is the one aim of the Christian life.

- Octavius Winslow

5.08.2017

EXCELLENT Quote.



It is tragic to go through our days making Christ the subject of our study 
but not the sustenance of our souls
- Vance Havner

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. Matthew 22

Lord, teach me how to make You my EVERYthing, I pray.

5.05.2017

This and that.

We are excited over here in the Eastman home because we have five ducklings to enjoy for the next few weeks! Round two of Operation Duck Hatch was a SUCCESS. Iris was the first to break forth from her shell last Friday, but the other nine eggs showed no signs of producing life. On day 28 I candled them again and was thrilled to find six eggs with movement and shadows of beaks in the air sac. Yes!
The chirping began Thursday morning, much to the delight of Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie, and by this morning we had five fluffy, adorable ducklings cuddled together in the cage. (Sadly, two fully formed ducklings could not break through their shells, so Luke buried them in the backyard.)
Witnessing God's creation from beginning to end is a beautiful thing and continues to make me stand back in awe and wonder. We belong to such a creative and purposeful God!

Iris is Ellie's duckling. She has been caring for her all week. Duck's are social creatures, so being alone does not suit them. Iris needed much attention, even in the wee hours of the morning.
Ellie was willing to wake up and get Iris, but she just couldn't quite hold it together to stay awake and play with her so early in the day.
So ... when your duck needs early-morning attention, but you are too tired to attend to her, this seems like a great solution!
Well-played, Ellie! Well-played!

~~~ Summer is only 27 days away! 27 days until we can sleep in a few days a week, spend every Thursday at the beach, meet up with friends we could not see during the school year, enjoy the long hours of daylight, bask in the warmth of the sun, do some exploring, and have a relaxed learning schedule to keep us focused and prepared for the fall.
How good it was of the Lord to create seasons and rhythms of work and rest for His people!

A dear friend sent me a text asking if I would be willing to do a book study with her this summer, on the topic of marriage.
Usually, we both spend our summers reading excellent books on parenting and homeschooling to prepare for the coming school year, but she feels a great conviction to spend the next three months focusing on her marriage. Her conviction became my conviction, so as of June 1st we are diving into one book each month. This should be GOOD!

The COUSINS are here! The COUSINS are here!
My brother had to make his way down south for a work conference, so they loaded up the whole family and drove everyone down for the weekend.
We have enjoyed each afternoon together, and the boys will enjoy a traditional 'cousin sleepover' on Saturday night.
Ellie and Olivia had fun going on a Girl Date at an old-fashioned drug store with my mom and CC and then spent time playing together alone before returning to all of the boys. Just what they needed!



~~~ Last night I enjoyed a sweet time of fellowship with my sisters. We had a few hours alone together so we curled up on my couch and spent the entire time talking about the secrets and struggles of our hearts. We were able to listen to one another, encourage on another, and pray together.
We needed this time. And now we know to serve one another better in the times we are apart, and pray for each other with purpose.
As we shared with each other last night, I could not help but think of this verse,
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17 How thankful I am that the Lord has given me Stephanie and CC, for they are my sisters AND my friends. ❤

~~~ Happy Weekend, everyone!
I will leave you with this quote to encourage and inspire you.
"Brethren, the time is short!" 1 Corinthians 7:29
Our time below is brief and uncertain - and therefore very precious.
Let us employ it, so as to improve it.
Let us live for God and eternity!
The time is short - oh, who can tell
How short his time below may be;
Today on earth, his soul may dwell,
Tomorrow in eternity!

"So teach us to number our days - that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Psalm 90:12

- James Smith, 1871

5.04.2017

Quote.

The church should be a safe place for sinners
without being a safe place for sin.
- Justin Taylor

It should be closed. OFTEN!

This wonderful piece about controlling our mouths showed itself when I was flipping through a social media site.

Excellent, 100% biblical, and convicting!
No wonder James penned these words: But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. James 3:8-10

Lord, I echo the Psalmist ... "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3

When to Keep Your Mouth CLOSED 
- Elisabeth Elliot

- In the Heat of Anger

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

- When You Don't Have All the Facts

He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. Proverbs 18:13
The first to present his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

- When It is Time to Listen 
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger ...
James 1:19
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2


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

Imagine if everyone followed such wise advice.
We would live in a much more quiet world, and we could fill the silence with encouragement and praise!

5.01.2017

Thankful not to be alone!

Do you ever feel like you are being pulled between the Lord and the enemy like a piece of taffy?
The enemy's purpose is evil, of course, but the Lord has a plan that is for His glory and your good?
I feel like that now.
At war within myself, not doing what I should do, and doing what I should not - just like Paul expresses in Romans 7. That dizzying passage where he reminds us that though our heart and mind want to live righteously, we continue to dwell in a sinful body that will always seek to have its own way. And that way always pulls in the opposite direction of the Lord.

Today, I met a friend at the park while twelve children ran around us. After settling into our chairs, I looked at her and asked, "So, how are you, friend?"
Long silence.
I tipped my head to one side while glancing at her oddly, fully understanding that feeling of having no idea how to answer such a vague question because there are too many things going on at once when she looked at me and started laughing.
"I have no idea how to answer that question!"
She started to unravel the answer, and by the time she finished I said, "Wow. I totally get that! I feel like my prayers don't even count right now."
She turned her head to me quickly, eyes large, and replied, "Yes! That is EXACTLY how I feel!"

We engaged in an encouraging conversation after that, loosely following the Romans 7 outline, confessing our struggles, and sharing our frustration with our flesh. Later, we traded texts promising to pray for the other one when apathy creeps it's suffocating fingers around our spiritual throats. 

How thankful I am that the Lord does not ask us to walk the Christian life alone!
The enemy may drool over me every morning seeking to devour me, but because God created the body of Christ, that lion will never find me without a fellow soldier willing to draw her sword on my behalf.
Thank You, Lord, for such a wonderful promise!

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor. 
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up. 
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone? 
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

4.26.2017

Contentment. I am still learning!

There are certain authors who cut me to the core with their words. And I LOVE IT!
Their words are hard, requiring thought, prayer, and much humility to swallow, but oh, how worthy it is to engage with them!

Expressing the convictions, revelations, and encouragement found in the pages of a book such as this with another brother/sister in Christ enriches the study and increases the profit of the pursuit.
If you have never done so (or have not done so in a long while), choose an excellent piece of godly literature and read it with a brother/sister in Christ. Exchange thoughts, questions, and personal applications. Pray together. You will be amazed at the blessings which follow!

I highly recommend this book. A fantastic piece for any believer's library!

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Philippians 4:11, 12

This word, “I have learned,” is a word which imports difficulty. It shows how hard the apostle came by contentment of mind; it was not bred in nature.
The business of true religion is not so easy as most imagine.
It is an easy thing to be wicked; hell will be taken without storm; but matters of piety must be learned.”

“… the art of divine contentment is not achieved without holy industry.” “I have LEARNED.”

Matters of practice. As, self-denial. As for a man to deny his own wisdom, and see himself blind. As to have his own will, and have it melted into the will of God. As to be plucking out the right eye, beheading and crucifying that sin which is the favorite and lies nearest to the heart. As for a man to be dead to the world, and in the midst of need to abound. As for him to take up the cross, and follow Christ, not only in golden - but in bloody paths. As to embrace religion, when it is dressed in rags, and all the jewels of honor and preferment are pulled off. All this is against nature - and therefore must be learned.”

“Likewise with self-examination, for a man to take his heart, as a watch, all in pieces; to set up a spiritual inquisition, and traverse things in his own soul; to take David’s candle and lantern, and search for sin …”

God’s Spirit speaks sweetly - but irresistibly.”

“Let us make this our prayer, “Lord, breathe Your Spirit into Your Word!”

A gracious spirit is a contented spirit. The doctrine of contentment is very superlative, and until we have learned this - we have not learned to be Christians.”

“Whichever way providence blew, Paul had such heavenly skill and dexterity, that he knew how to steer his course.
… he could be anything that God would have him to be.”

“Paul, in regard of his faith and courage, was like a cedar, he could not be stirred. But for his outward condition, he was like a reed bending every way with the wind of providence. When a prosperous gale blew upon him, he could bend with that, “I know how to be full;” and when a boisterous gust of affliction blew, he could bend in humility with that, “I know how to be hungry.”

A Christian, having cast his anchor in heaven, his heart never sinks.
A gracious spirit - is a contented spirit.”

4.25.2017

A heart of anger can be HEALED!

THIS BOOK!

An excellent resource for all parents, and a worthy read for anyone who struggles with the sin of bitterness, anger, stubbornness, or rebellion.
The root of anger is a seed that is usually planted when we are hurt or wounded and when left unchecked and unresolved it grows quickly into bitterness, which we know is a sin that must be destroyed.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31, 32

I read this a decade ago and found it timely and helpful then, and the lovely woman who is discipling me assigned me to read it again this month. I read the entire book in one day, highlighted everything that jumped out at me, and sent her my responses in four separate e-mails.
Not only do I see my children in the words running across the pages - I see myself. And the image is not attractive.
Praise the Lord for being a God of forgiveness, mercy, and second chances, for I need them all. Every day!

I am including many of the quotes that challenged/convicted me with the hope that someone else who struggles with an angry child or an angry heart (or both) will be encouraged that a) you are not alone and b) there is HOPE - for healing, and for PEACE. In your home, and in your heart.

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

- God will not ask you as a Christian to follow any biblical mandate without providing the grace and ability to carry it out.

- Identify how you may be sinning against your child so you can remove the beam from your own eyes before attempting to remove the splinters from theirs.

- Because the Bible addresses all aspects of communication, the Christian should make it his goal to become proficient in all three areas. Words - non-verbal communication - tone of voice.

- When a man is angry (or experiencing other intense emotions), he is at greater risk of sinning with his words.
Great verses to fight this!
"The heart of the righteous studies how to answer." Proverbs 15:28
"The heart of the wise teaches his mouth and adds learning to his lips." Proverbs 16:23

- The effect of tone of voice is so great that some experts believe it to be up to seven times more powerful in certain situations than the words themselves.

- Changing facial expressions is probably the most difficult aspect of communication to correct.
Verse to inspire the change: "A man's wisdom makes his face to shine and the harshness of his countenance to be changed." Ecclesiastes 8:1

- What is the first rule for disciplining children? You must have more discipline than the child.

- The Gumnazo Principle: Correcting wrong behavior by practicing right behavior, with the right attitude, for the right reason, until the right behavior becomes habitual.

- Confessing one's sin to an offended brother is not simply an option for a Christian, it is a command that you must follow if restoration is to occur.

- Asking for forgiveness is not the same thing as saying, "I'm sorry." Saying "I'm sorry" doesn't accomplish the biblical goal of putting past offenses aside. Nor does it lay the foundation to reestablish a broken trust as effectively as does asking forgiveness.

- When someone forgives, they are committing not to hold it against the person, talk about it with others, or dwell on it themselves.
A Christian is commanded by God to forgive a penitent offender. The offending Christian has the responsibility to earn back the trust that has been lost as a result of his sin. Granting someone forgiveness is not the same thing as declaring someone trustworthy."

- Just as your children must practice biblical communication principles to become proficient in their usage, so you, as a parent, must practice biblical discipline to become a proficient and skillful instructor.

- The only divinely-approved diagnostic manual whereby Christians may accurately judge thoughts and motives is Scripture. Christian parent, you must learn not only how to draw the thoughts and motives out of your child, but also how to diagnose those thoughts and motives; "not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." I Cor 2:13

- The ability to discern thoughts and motives when experiencing intense emotion is an essential skill for the Christian who intends to pursue holiness. Recognizing thoughts and imaginations of the heart is a prerequisite of bringing them "captive to the obedience of Christ."

- The best evidence that a Christian desires (loves) something more than he desires (loves) God, is his willingness to sin against God, either in order to acquire that desire or because he cannot acquire it.
One of the most common sins that demonstrates the presence of inordinate desire is anger.

- Christ never answered a fool with a foolish response. He never fought folly with folly. In communicating with fools, He never employed communication forms that violated Scripture. Although He did respond to foolishness, He did not respond in kind. In other words, He did not allow the fool with whom He was talking to drag Him down to His level by playing the same sinful communication games as His opponent.
What He did do when responding to foolish verbiage was to show the fool his own foolishness.
"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he be wise in his own eyes." Proverbs 26:4

RESPONDING biblically to sin in others
➵ Examine your motives.
Your motives for responding to your child's manipulation should be righteous.
➵ Examine your life.
You should examine your own life for any sinful words, actions, and attitudes (especially manifestations of the same basic tendencies of disrespect and manipulation).
➵ Maintain a spirit of gentleness.
It is possible for righteous anger and sinful anger to reside in your heart at the same time. Before you open your mouth to reprove your manipulating child, you had better be sure that any anger you may feel in your heart is due to his sin against God rather than his sin against you. And, if you are certain you can speak out of such righteous anger, you had better take heed that such anger does not express itself in sinful forms of communication.
Such as harshness, sarcasm, raising your voice, criticism etc.
➵ Choose the right words.
You must speak the truth in love.
You must select words that communicate grace and that will meet the needs of your child, for the purpose of edifying him.
As a parent, you must "let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person." Colossians 4:6

4.24.2017

It's FOREVER. So I need to KNOW it!


I bought pink tulips today. One of my favorite flowers.
Every time I receive or purchase fresh flowers I place them near my Bible. I'm not sure why - it just seems like they belong there. Perhaps it is the contrast between the temporary and the eternal that affects me so deeply. As Scripture says, "The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever." Isaiah 40:8
Maybe the Lord needs me to have a visual of this profound truth continually before my eyes because I would not remember it on my own.

What I do know is that He has put an intense desire on my heart to memorize Psalm 119.
I love this Psalm. It is practical, applicable, and encouraging. I draw from it often, and when I was reading it today I was overwhelmed with a desire to KNOW it.
Not just the verses that refresh my heart, but the verses that address my sin and remind me that I am accountable to a holy God for my thoughts, words, and actions. 
"I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:11

I pulled these specific verses from the chapter because they speak of ACTION.
They speak of things I want in my spiritual life.
They speak of who I want to be as a believer - and - as a child of God.

Thank You, Lord, for the precious beauty of Your Word. Make me desire it more ... so much so that I cannot lay my head on my pillow at night until I have spent focused, intentional time turning its pages. I don't know enough, I don't understand enough, and I don't obey enough. Open my eyes, Lord! Incline and enlarge my heart to Your law. Give me understanding, keep my steps sure, let Your law help me, and make my heart blameless. I love You and I need You, Lord, and I can find You here ... in the pages of Your Word. Teach me how to hide it in my heart - and even more - to live it, faithfully, day by day.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of Your law.

I will run in the way of Your commandments
when You enlarge my heart!

Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!

Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn Your commandments.

May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
that I may not be put to shame!

Keep steady my steps according to Your promise,
and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

Let my soul live, and it shall praise You;
And let Your judgments help me.

Psalm 119


Would anyone like to join me?