6.17.2018

We love this man!


What we love, respect, and appreciate about our Dad.

Compiled by:
Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie ❤

His commitment.
His wisdom.
His integrity and grit, waking up every morning to work hard to
support a family of eight in a place that is quite expensive to live in. 
His inexhaustible humour.
His ability to lead.
His unrelenting love for me and my siblings.
His love for mom and his commitment to take care of her.
His discipline over his body, physically and spiritually.
He is funny.
He loves the Lord.
He has the talent to make people laugh.
He is understanding.
He is a great teacher.
He is a friend as well as a dad.
He will always look after the people he loves.
Hardworking. 
Persistent in growth. 
Doesn't give up easily. 
Is willing to do the hard thing for the greater good of the family, work, and others. 
Leads our family physically and spiritually. 
Puts family first. 
Is the protector of our home. 
Is easy to like and be around.
He hugs us.
He plays with us.
He teaches us how to play every sport.
He is funny and makes us laugh.
He goes to work so we can have food, a house, and a bed.
He loves us.

Happy Father's Day, Dennis!
You are loved and adored by your children ... because you love and adore them.

6.16.2018

Thankful He is OURS!


This man.

Most people see the lighter, fun side of Dennis.
The surfer.
The comedian.
The man who uses broken tree trunks as weights when camping.
The rock music aficionado.
The "Superfan" of football and all things sports.
The storyteller.

But there is another side ... the man that was captured in this photo.
Focused, intense, thoughtful, purposeful, and driven.

The man who worked three jobs for eighteen years to keep me home with our children.
The man who fought against his ADHD and dyslexia to secure a Ph.D.,
taking one class at a time for seven years so he could live out his dream of training teachers.
The man who spends hours preparing lessons/presentations regardless of who or what he is teaching.
The man who specifically prayed for the Lord to remove him from the "comfortable" and place him where he could grow and better understand the needs of others - and became the Principal of an inner-city school where the Lord changed the direction of his heart and his life.
The man who knows he does not know enough, so he seeks wisdom and counsel from godly men who will speak the truth, even when the truth is hard to hear - and hard to do.
The man who became a student of our children, learning how/when to approach them, and intentionally invests in them, prays for them, writes to them, and engages with them.
A man whom they will one day not only call Father - but Friend.
The man who willingly pours into young men who seek him out, with humility and grace.
The man who speaks up for those who cannot speak for themselves, using his energy, his time, his studies, and his position to advocate on their behalf.
Out of obedience - with JOY - because he knows this is his calling.
The man who has protected, defended, encouraged, supported, loved, and challenged me for 24 years of marriage, never once holding me back from my calling and passion to minister to the brokenhearted. He has hugged, prayed with, delivered flowers to, and listened to the countless women (and couples) the Lord has filtered through our home, and they know his kindness and concern are genuine.
A man whose life mantras are:
Begin with the end in mind.
Win the moment.
Be a trier, not a crier.
Act like what you do matters - because it does.

This is the man I live with.
This is the man Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie call "Dad."
And it is for this man we praise God that He chose Dennis - for us.

Micah's World.


Micah’s world.
A world where he feels secure and confident.
The Lord provided a love of and talent for music in our son,
and it has been his solace and refuge in times of struggle.
Every lyric written, every song composed, and every note played has been used by the Lord
to bring Micah peace - when he needed it most.
And as parents, we are and always will be THANKFUL to the Lord
for providing this outlet and place of safety for our son. ♥

6.14.2018

Delighting in each other.

One of the best things about discipleship is being pushed to discover and understand things about yourself that you would not seek on your own. Especially when the woman leading you toward the discovery has been walking with the Lord longer, can navigate Scripture blindfolded, and has acquired godly wisdom far beyond your years. Strength and comfort are found in her encouragement, and her support propels you to keep going when your discovery leads you to something unappealing that you would prefer to shove back under the sand rather than take home and study.

I always tell my girls, "I will never ask you to do something I am not willing to do myself." Because of this, they enjoy listening to me share about my discipleship adventures with Ginger. Her standards and expectations exceed my own, much to the delight of my girls, who declare, while laughing, "Now you know how WE feel!" They did, however, sit wide-eyed while I reported that after giving me an assignment, Ginger checked in to confirm our monthly date and said, "Make sure to bring your assignment with you. If it is not complete we will need to reschedule." I looked at them grinning and asked, "How would you feel if I wouldn't let you come to COMMITTED if you didn't do the monthly assignments?" They looked horrified, and one of them replied, "I would be kicked out!"

When I relayed this exchange to Ginger the following night at our meeting, she laughed and said, "Well, you did ask for this! And, you are not in the certificate program of discipleship, my friend. You are in the Ph.D. program! I push you a lot harder than I push others because I know you can handle it." I laughed with her and responded, "Just because I can handle it doesn't mean I LIKE it!" She just smiled.

What was the assignment? A study of the importance/necessity/priority of reading God's Word DAILY.
And this verse was at the heart of it.
Revelation 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me."
The question: What is revealed about the heart of Jesus here?
He is Present
He is Persistent
He is Purposeful
He Pursues us
He is Personal

I send my assignments via e-mail so she can go over them before we meet. It allows us to dive right into a discussion rather than spend our time reading. For the first time in a year and a half, she sent my notes back to me with this line attached: “You totally missed the point of this assignment. Try again, please. Hint: RELATIONSHIP.”
!!!!!!!!!!! <insert shaking head, rolling eyes, and laughter>

Revelation 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me."
What is revealed about the heart of Jesus here?

He is Present - The Lord willingly chooses to be near me, never leaving or forsaking me. He is always present. Always ready/willing/desiring to talk to me and hear from me.
He is Persistent - He chooses to knock. He could kick the door in, float through the door, demand that I open it. But He doesn't. He knocks - over and over again - waiting for me to open it for Him.
He is Purposeful - He comes to me. He calls to me. He asks to be invited in - with the purpose of interacting with me.
He Pursues - "I stand at the door and knock." He CHOOSES to come to me. He is not calling me to Him. He comes to me. Not because He needs me - but because He WANTS me.
He is Personal - Strangers do not come to the door with the desire to connect or relate. They are selling something, wanting something from the person inside. Jesus comes to the door to offer one thing - Himself.

This is such a beautiful, intimate image of our Lord! But one I found foreign and uncomfortable when I was a child, teen, and young adult. I believed in Him and I believed He loved me, but with a distant, dutiful love. I approached God with confidence and faith because I knew His character. I could delight in Him but I could not see how or why He would delight in ME. I wanted to believe it - I tried to believe it - but it eluded me. All I could see were my failings. 

BUT GOD ... in His faithfulness, showed me where my thinking was wrong. I still have to fight for control of my thoughts at times because for decades, when I imagined how God viewed me when I approached Him, it looked like this:
"Michelle is here? Hmm. Let me see her stats, please. Oh, my. So many sins. And the same ones over and over. Why can't she do things right? But, she did obey some of My commands so I suppose I should give her credit for that. Her sins far outweigh her obedience, but at least she tried. Okay. Let her in."

But when I read the Revelation 3 passage, along with other verses in Scripture describing God's love for His children and His people, I clearly see the errors in my thinking. Because the truth is, when I approach the Throne of Grace, THIS is how the Lord responds:
"Michelle is here? WONDERFUL! I have been looking forward to our time together! I always enjoy the way she talks to Me and listens to Me, and I love her desire to know Me more. Please, bring her in!
I cannot wait to see her!"

It is this scenario that brings tears to my eyes, for even as I read it now, with all the years of legalism, disbelief, and fear behind me, I still marvel at the truth that God sees me - He knows me - and He wants me. And now, I rejoice in the knowledge that we can delight - in each other.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. Psalm 18:19

6.12.2018

Rescued LESS. Obeying MORE.

After a thankfully short, though frustratingly dry season in the Word, it has been a delight to turn the pages of my Bible this last week and feel LIFE and PEACE once again.
There is absolutely nothing that refreshes my heart or mind like Scripture.
And yet, more times than I care to admit, I have tried to find refreshment elsewhere.
Never succeeding.
Never satisfied.
How foolish!
The green pastures and still waters are always in the same place, waiting to welcome me, while the Shepherd stands close by to guide and protect me - and restore my soul.
Sheep are not known for their intelligence, and sadly, I fit in quite easily with this lackadaisical lot when it comes to following and obeying the voice of my Shepherd.
I do hear Him when He calls - because I know His voice.
But I do not always answer. Or follow where He leads.
And then, when I have fallen into a pit or am stuck in the crag of a cliff, I regret my obstinance and cry out, waiting until He turns back when He realizes I am not with Him.
For, He always knows when I have strayed.
He always looks for me.
And He always finds me.
I am thankful He is a faithful Shepherd because I am not a consistently faithful sheep.
It is my desire. But it is not always my discipline.
And He knows this!
And because He knows, He encourages me - with His voice - through His Word.

Thank You, Lord, for being a God who loves and rejoices over His sheep with tenderness and grace. It is Your kindness that leads us to repentance, and it is Your kindness that brings us back to You every time we wander from the fold. We wander far too often, yet Your mercy and forgiveness fall fresh each time, and Your arm is not too short to find us - and pull us back. Make me a woman who must be rescued less - because she obeys more. For following and obeying You is - a choice.

Know that the Lord, He is God!
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3

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. Psalm 23:1-3

"I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." John 10:14-15, 27-29

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. I Peter 2:25

6.11.2018

COMMITTED - an outing!



Our annual COMMITTED summer outing!
This year we chose to have dinner and sip coffee at Pacific City, and then sat on the sand talking, laughing, sharing, and enjoying the stars until the beach curfew forced us to leave. 
Another wonderful COMMITTED tradition. I love my girls! ๐Ÿ’—๐Ÿ’•


And - the perfect logo for our night together!
“Commit to Something”
I told them I would find a verse to support it, and this one is terrific!
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” II Chronicles 16:9
For there is nothing better to commit to than the Lord!

6.07.2018

Caleb.


Practicing for his future career/ministry with children. ๐Ÿ˜Š♥️๐Ÿ™ƒ♥️
Caleb has always had a natural love for children,
and he has a unique love and compassion for kids with special needs.
We have no idea how the Lord will weave this passion into Caleb’s future, but HE does! 
So for now, we will wait on Him while providing consistent opportunities for our son to play with, serve, and care for children of all ages, stages, and abilities so he is ready, experienced, and able to start marching when the Lord says, “GO!”

6.05.2018

An End of the Year SPACE TRIP!


Today we had the privilege of being escorted on a private, interesting, fun, and extremely educational tour of JPL by our very own engineer/space guru, Mr. P. J. Guske.
When he discovered we were studying astronomy earlier this year, he quickly offered, "If you would like to visit JPL, just let me know and I will set it up." So - we did! And it was a GREAT day!

After visiting this facility with 1,000 other children and chaperones about eight years ago, I was beyond thrilled to be the only people on the tour. And, almost, the only non-employees on the campus! The visitor center, museum, and other exhibits were EMPTY, which meant our kids could actually look at, touch, listen to, and interact with every single exhibit. It was WONderful!


When Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie saw the (not to scale) models of spacecraft (Voyager, Cassini, Juno) at our first stop, they were beside themselves with excitement. They ran back and forth between them shouting things like, "Mom! This is the one that orbits Jupiter! Do you remember studying that?"
As their teacher, I was beyond pleased that they remembered our studies!




It was a thrill to see a full-size model of Galileo, but even better was learning that it was P. J.'s very first project at JPL! Galileo was launched in 1989, the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter.
(P. J.'s current project is the Mars Sample Return, the details of which I will not even try to explain as I am still trying to wrap my brain around what he must resolve to make it a success.)

One of the funniest parts of the day was when he explained his former project (ARM), which involved landing spacecraft on an asteroid, collecting and securing a boulder, launching said boulder from the asteroid to be secured by astronauts (somewhere in space) and then brought back to earth to be studied. As soon as he finished, I started laughing out loud at his casual manner of delivery.

"So it's as simple as that huh? Nevermind the atmospheric changes, the different gravitational pulls, the speed of rotation and revolution of the planets and moons, the thousands of moving rocks, ice and debris floating throughout, and the gazillion variables possible between launch and recovery. 
Nooooo problem!" <insert three adults laughing here!>
That is one of my favorite things about our friend. He is brilliant - yet personal, real, and FUN!





The (empty) museum was the highlight for Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie. They LOVED it!


The first American satellite launched into orbit in February 1958, Explorer 1.


The Spacecraft Assembly Facility
Too many details to share, but worth an internet search for it is quite fascinating!





Mars Curiosity Rover, a model.
Best story about this: 
Curiosity's tires have unique holes in them. In addition to helping it keep from getting stuck in the sand, the pattern of the holes was a sneaky way to leave JPL's mark on Mars. The holes are Morse Code for the letters J-P-L. (Dennis guffawed when he heard this! Hilarious!)



Since Dennis grew up with a rocket scientist for a father, he was more excited than any of us to be in this place. A scientist/engineer he is not, but he has a deep interest in the space world.
When I asked, "Are you having a good time?" he responded, "Are you KIDDING? This is a-MA-zing!"


Mission Control - where they talk to robots, not humans.
(aka The Center of the Universe)
JPL is able to talk with spacecraft through its Deep Space Network,
a network of antennas stationed around the world.




This was the last thing we saw during our tour - and Dennis loved the phrase.
We stood in the room for a few minutes thinking about how to apply this motto to the Christian life.
At first, we thought of mighty men in Scripture who dared to do great things for God. Things no one else was willing to do. When we got home, I was curious to find verses to support the motto.
And imagine - as with everything else in life - God's Word provided!

The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Psalm 126:3

Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. 
For consider what great things He has done for you. I Samuel 12:24

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20, 21

✦Thank you, P.J., for a truly wonderful day!✦

6.04.2018

A Graduation Reflection ... about our son.


Micah Steven,

I love this photo of you.
It depicts your physical strength, your playful personality, and your gentle and sometimes serious spirit, yet your facial expression makes it seem as though you could burst into laughter in a moment. And that is who you are! Who you have always been.
You were a sweet, affectionate, playful child ... easy to correct, quick to repent ... 
eager to please and quick to console, with a desire to encourage.
You have always been competitive, intense, passionate, and verbose.
Though these attributes have morphed as you matured in stature and grew in Christ, it is clear that you were who God created you to be from the moment you drew breath on this earth.
And Micah ... who you are is a BEAUTIFUL image of the One who made you, 
for you are exactly the young man He wants you to be!
And He will use ALL of who you are - strengths and weaknesses - for His purposes and His glory, for your good, if you remain fully yielded to Him. Day by day. Year after year.

The last six years of your educational studies proved difficult, to say the least.
You had to fight against yourself to complete every writing assignment, every math lesson, every science experiment, and every research project.
You fought every day.
And last night, you saw the fruit of your fortitude and faithfulness when your father handed you your high school diploma. Tangible evidence that you completed the work that was set before you.
Tangible evidence showing that even when aspects of life are arduous and seemingly impossible,
we can endure - overcome - and succeed when we do so with the Lord's strength and not our own.

In junior high, you picked up a guitar and a set of drumsticks, and your life was never the same.
For the first time, you felt confident - and competent.
Music has been your "safe place."
The only place you did not struggle. The only place you knew you were good at something.
And the Lord used that place of safety to hone your natural talent, provide an escape from discontentment and depression, and open your eyes to the truth that intelligence, talent, and skill have many faces - including playing music and writing songs.
Whether He uses your musical talent for a career or for a personal place of peace, I pray He will be at the center of every song, every lyric, and every performance, for it is He who blessed you with this outlet, so He must receive all the glory for its use.

You are a wonderful young man, Micah Steven.
And that is exactly what your dad and I have raised you to be - a MAN.
Men are independent. Strong. Self-aware. Leaders. Providers. 
And as a believer, kind, compassionate, patient, long-suffering, and forgiving must be added to the list.
You are not your own, Micah.
You were bought with a price by an amazing and powerful God who called you according to His purpose and will complete the work HE BEGAN in you the day you surrendered your life to Him.
You can gain the praise and acceptance of the whole world,
but it will profit you nothing if the cost is your soul. 
Seek Him first.
Seek Him often.
Seek Him most.
Because, Micah, there is no one who will ever love you as much as your God.
Love Him above all else - above everyone else - and you will live under the beauty of His blessing.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word. Psalm 119:9

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

I love you, Micah.
Though I am not a fearful woman, there are fleeting moments when I think of life without you, and my heart explodes from imagined sorrow. In the song you wrote for me and dad, the line "though I go around the world never to be seen again" made me cry out, "Lord! Protect my son!" The reality of that thought is too much to bear. And yet, the moment I called on Him, He quieted my heart with the reminder, "He does not belong to you, daughter. He is Mine. And I know what is best for My own."
And, once again, I surrendered you to His sovereign plan.

I love you with all of my heart, and that love requires entrusting you to the One who created you and called you, and I pray I will be a mother who joyfully releases you to the independence of adulthood and rejoices with you as you make your plans - while letting the Lord direct your steps.

♥You always have been, and always will be, one of my greatest joys.♥

6.03.2018

The 1st Eastman Graduate!


Congratulations, Micah!
Now - on to real life!
We are excited to see how the Lord directs your steps.

6.02.2018

A Family (pre) Graduation Celebration!


A pre-graduation ๐ŸŽ“CELEBRATION ๐ŸŽ“with the family!

We gathered together to share in the joy of Micah completing high school
and moving into the adult world.
Dennis opened our evening with a challenge to and encouragement for our son.
Micah shared the highlights and lowlights of his high school years
- and then - he sang a song he wrote for me and Dennis. ♥️๐Ÿ˜ญ♥️
We gathered around Micah to close the evening in prayer ... all aunts and uncles, grandparents, me and Dennis personally lifting him up to the Lord - and leaving him in His sovereign hands.
A sweet memory to be stored up in this mother's heart.

And tomorrow - the Graduation Ceremony! ๐ŸŽ“
He will be an official graduate, and we couldn’t be more excited for him!


Brothers - Best Friends


The oldest brother and his "littles."


Nonna and Pop Pop


The Millers came down from Fresno!


Aunt Demma, Uncle Doug, and Douglas


Cousins!


Cut from the same exact mold.


One of my seven greatest joys!

6.01.2018

This and that.

I have a secret fascination/obsession with fun, cool, fancy cars. I have no desire to own one, but I sure like riding in them! And on the rare occasion when I am allowed to be the driver, I take full advantage of the opportunity.
My nephew recently purchased a Jeep.
Not a regular Jeep, but an it-has-a-gazillion-upgrades-and-there-are-still-more-to-be-installed Jeep. When I saw this gem on his IG feed, I commented, "You're going to let your favorite aunt drive it, right?" He replied, "Of course!"
And when he rolled into town last weekend, he kept his word!
He let me drive around town without any backseat driving, white knuckles, or sucking in large gulps of air in a panic. It was GREAT!
And then Kyle made LUKE'S day when he let him (a 16-year-old with only a learner's permit) drive the prized possession. He is one terrific cousin! Thank you for a memorable family night, Kyle. We love you!

They DID IT!
Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie completed their final Reading Curriculum book.
<insert the longest and most enthusiastic happy dance ever seen>
It took two years.
Uncountable hours.
Dozens of rules, games, stories ... all used to teach auditory awareness, phonics, how to break down words to sound them out, and more.
I never - ever - ever - thought I would be able to teach my dyslexic children to read, but by the grace of God we did it!
TOGETHER.

~~~ When Caleb was diagnosed with dyslexia nine years ago, the Doctor who served us said something I never forgot. It made me cry when she said it, and it still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it now.
Caleb was five years old. He had memorized the entirety of Psalm 139 (24 verses) and all 50 states and their capitals, but he could not remember what sound "k" makes.
After she tested him and reported that he was at the lowest point on the dyslexia scale, explaining that she could not promise he would ever read, I asked her, "How is it possible that he can memorize entire chapters of Scripture but cannot recall the sound of one letter of the alphabet?"
She, a believer, looked Caleb straight in his five-year-old eyes and said, "Caleb, God's Word is powerful, and if you keep learning it and memorizing it, He will bless you. Never stop reading "
She didn't focus on what was "wrong" or what he could or could not do. She focused on Scripture. And on Christ.

The Lord has recalled her words to mind countless times these past nine years - and I am thankful.
The most recent recall was about a month ago when it appeared Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were not pushing past the next hurdle in reading. I was frustrated and discouraged, and then BAM! It may as well have been an audible voice that cried out, "Put the books away and have them read MY WORDS, Michelle!" So, I did.
Now, we listen to praise music every morning during chores/breakfast and begin our studies with an oral reading of the Psalm and Proverb of the day. And the reading barrier has been destroyed!
Though retention is not high since their brains are working so hard to decipher the letters swimming on the page, the Word of God IS flowing into their minds, and He promises that it never returns void. Thank You, Lord!

If you are looking for a way to introduce your children to missionaries - acquire these books!
I read these with the older boys a decade ago, and am enjoying them once again with Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
They are excellent introductions to the lives of extraordinary men and women who willingly sacrificed comfort and life for the sake of the Gospel.
Their lives were difficult and filled with hardship, but that is the reality of life. Everyone must suffer, and everyone will die. The question is - how will we LIVE? For ourselves? Or for Christ?

As your children grow, they can read full biographies of their favorites they discover in these volumes, and I guarantee, they WILL have favorites! I read the books out loud after we read Scripture, and just about every morning I hear, "One more chapter, pleeeeeease?" You will laugh, you will be inspired, and you will cry through every final chapter. And along the way, you will be forced to look at how you spend your own days, and what you do for the Kingdom of God. And it will be good.

Below are two quotes by Nate Saint that challenged me.
"And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives... and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted."

I would rather die now than to live a life of oblivious ease in so sick a world. - Nate Saint


~~~ Happy Weekend, everyone!
We are looking forward to celebrating our oldest son, Micah, as he walks across the stage to receive his high school diploma Sunday evening. Woohoo!
We have been raising him to become a man, and he is well on his way!
Praise God for milestones we can use as markers in our journey of life and faith.

5.30.2018

Dennis' Foster Mom.

In honor of National Foster Care Month, I wanted to highlight the woman who took care of Dennis the first four months of his life. His Foster Mom.

Mom and Dad told Dennis he was adopted from the day they brought him home and said that if he ever wanted to find his birth parents, they would help him do so. (And, praise the Lord, we DID find them 11 years later!)
After we were married, Mom handed us an envelope that contained every paper they possessed pertaining to his adoption.
The envelope contained correspondence from the lawyers, a one-page typed letter with his birth family's history, the receipt for his adoption, totaling $500, paid on April 15th, 1968 (if only the cost was still this feasible!), and a three-page form filled out by his Foster Mom.

I remember reading through her notes 25 years ago - and smiling. She filled out the required answers for the state, feeding schedule, amount of food, vitamins, etc., but also added personal notes. Her words are thoughtful, detailed, more than what was expected, and give evidence that she CARED. (I laughed at some of the things she wrote because they show that we are born just as God designed - for the characteristics she observed in Dennis are still the same 50 years later! (I'll let you decipher which of D's traits were hardwired by the Lord!))

Dennis was named Jason Conrad Bold by his birth parents, Jack and Sue, but the foster mom called him Spencer. (He loves to say that his birth name sounds like a Superhero!) His full foster name was scratched out and replaced with his adopted name, so we will never know who this woman is, or how to find her and thank her for her kindness to "Spencer." But we are thankful.

Below are the highlights of her notes. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the life of the blonde, blue-eyed four-month-old baby boy who grew up to become Dennis Lee Eastman, as well as the heart and mind of a woman who chose to "visit orphans in their distress," and did so with joy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Daily routine:
- Bath in mid-morning. Do not make sudden movements.

Dinner:
- Likes a lot of attention in early evening hours until bedtime.

Feeding instructions:
- I have always held Spencer while feeding him.
- You are going to find that sometimes when trying to give him his bottle he wiggles a lot and pushes the bottle away. I knew he was tired and needed milk so I laid him in bed propped up with his bottle ... he just loves it.

Sleeping Habits:
- Spencer sleeps at night on his tummy, usually with a pacifier when he first falls asleep.
- Two or three blankets to cover him, and he stays warmer with his stretch sleepers on or sleepers with the feet in because his feet get cold very easily, hands also.
* Do not overdress him when going out (too many blankets) as he perspires easily.

Habits:
- Lately, he will put as many fingers in his mouth as possible and coo for quite a while.
- If you talk softly to him and play with him a lot, you will be well rewarded because he talks a blue streak and you will be surprised at the sounds he will make.
- If there's one thing that stands out in my mind to tell you it is to talk to him a lot as he is advanced in this capacity.
- His latest feat of daring is jumping on your lap, lift him up high and he loves it.
- He does sit in an infant seat but not for too long at a time. He likes to be where the action is ...
- He loves to go bye-bye. Put him up to your shoulder and he will watch out the window and enjoy every bit of it.
- He is one beautiful boy, and he is all boy.

Observations:
Found hands - 1-1/2 months
Held head up - just a few weeks old
Follow with eyes - 1 month
Turned over - 1 month **** No kidding. He tucked his arm under and over he went, then it was a habit thereafter.
First words - I have been practicing with him to say "Ruffles have Ridges" but to no avail - I hope you have a good sense of humor.

And then she writes this personal note ...
To the Adoptive Parents:
It is a lovely afternoon, and I recently received a call that Spencer will be leaving us this week. My only thoughts right now are that you are very fortunate to be getting Spencer as an added member of your family. He has been most precious to us, and an extremely bright child. He has enjoyed our children's attention to him and is used to a little commotion once in a while (vacuum cleaner, usual household noises). He loves to go outside in the shade and eat (now that the weather has been nice I do this once in a while). He talks up a storm, belly laughs if you really work at it, and loves to cuddle. We've spent many an hour in a rocking chair just playing. There are no words to express how much I will miss him, and how much we have loved him. My only wish for all of you is that you have much happiness and no sorrows and that his life is blessed with all good things.
God Bless him,
Sincerely,
His Foster Parents
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is just one example of countless families who willingly, compassionately, and lovingly choose to bring children into their home until they are reunified with their birth parents, adopted by another family, or become part of their own.

To the countless mothers and fathers who have chosen to open your homes and your hearts to foster children - Thank You! 
Whether you have a foster child in your family for three months or thirteen years - you are making a difference - you are changing a life - and you are doing Kingdom work as you live out God's command to ...
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 31:8, 9

You may never know the effect you have on the lives of the children who filter through your home, but the Lord knows, and your sacrifice, commitment, and willingness to fight for those who cannot protect themselves is precious - and does not go unnoticed. ♥

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

5.29.2018

Another goodbye.


A sweet goodbye was shared with this sister and friend Sunday morning
before she starts a new life with her family in North Carolina. 
We don’t remember how we met, but we remember when we became FRIENDS.
A few years ago, in the middle of a park at a child’s birthday party, I asked her, 
“Who is pouring into you? Encouraging you? Challenging you to walk closer to Christ?”
An hour later she came back and said, “Can we do that TOGETHER?”
And we have been studying God’s Word, praying for each other, and encouraging one another ever since.
It is SUCH a privilege and a joy to be invited to walk beside other believers as they pursue Christ. And I am incredibly grateful that this sister has allowed me to do just that.
Thank you, Kristie, for opening your life and your heart to me, and for purposely seeking to invest in mine.
❤ I love you, friend, ❤
and I look forward to decades more of mutually encouraging one another in the faith.

5.28.2018

Thank You.


Freedom is not free, and everyone is not willing to fight for that freedom.

Praising God today for the frame of mind, fearlessness, and fortitude He purposely designed in the men and women who serve us every day by defending our freedom, our country, and us.

Just as all are not called to be missionaries, all are not called to be soldiers.
To those who have been called, and have responded in obedience ...

Thank You.

For everything.

5.27.2018

Mother's Day Photo!


I'm still not quite sure how, but Mother’s Day was never captured on film.
So today, we made it happen!
I am beyond thankful for these six people who have made me stronger, wiser, happier, and more prayerful than I was before knowing them.
Motherhood is the most difficult challenge I have ever faced,
but I would do it again - 1,000 times - because they make me BETTER.
Thank you,
Micah
Luke
Caleb
Josiah
Isaiah
Ellie
for making life interesting, sweet, and fun. 
I love you! ❤ Mom

5.25.2018

This and that.

Images like this will be forever emblazoned in my mind's eye - and in my heart.
As a mother of children who had to fight so•very•hard to learn how to read, moments like this cause my heart to swell.
Last year was •the• most difficult year of our homeschooling journey, but the Lord graciously redeemed it and allowed me to see tangible growth in their strengths and abilities this year.
How thankful I am that He forced me to stop and remember where Josiah and Isaiah and Ellie were ten months ago so I could rejoice in the change and praise God for His faithfulness. For without Him, we would never have made it this far. Their minds "could not" and I "did not." I did not know how to serve them, teach them, help them, or encourage them. But the Lord DID. And as always, He equipped the called. And we moved forward. ♥

Camp Eastman - Round 1 was a SUCCESS!
Three hours of nonstop movement, playing, games, rough-housing, smiles, and laughter. Just as it should be!
We are blessed to live near a university which opens it's campus to the surrounding residents, so we take advantage of that blessing without shame!
A one-mile walk to the field, an hour of soccer and frisbee and races on the field, and a mile walk home is part of the Camp agenda.
Fan-TAS-tic!
We have three more scheduled this summer, and we are confident that each night will be as good, if not better, than the first!


~~~ We are considering how to perhaps make Camp Eastman a regular thing, but with a different purpose!
Our passion and desire for Foster Care is ever-increasing. (Especially after I spent three hours holding a foster baby at our Orphan Care night last week. <grin>) Though our family is in agreement, and we are ready for the babies to roll through our home, we have to "Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house." Proverbs 24:27
We were not prepared for the Lord to drive our hearts toward foster care, so we must eliminate financial obligations in order to qualify as a foster family.
Dennis and I are on a mission to pay off a car, a student loan, and braces so we can move forward in the process. On paper, it will take far too long, but the Lord is not bound by our human limits, so we will pray and search for creative ways to bring in extra income while we wait on Him.
Besides, we can hold, feed, change, and love babies at the age of 50+ as easily as we can now, Amen?

Speaking of ... we have just crossed the Two Year mark of caring for our G3!
Last week Julie told me how excited the kids are to come to our house, and I laughed and said, "That feeling may die soon!" To which she replied, "I highly doubt THAT!"
These three children are the ones the Lord used to make Orphan Care switch from theory to reality for every member of our family.
As a dear friend said, "EVERYONE should be friends with someone who does foster care!"
And she is right. It changes you.
Statistics become faces.
Stories become KIDS.
It is easy to turn deaf ears and blind eyes to news reports and fundraising speeches, but it is impossible to look into the face of a living, breathing child who needs a home and a family and say, "I don't care."
How thankful we are to the Guskes for letting us learn from them and through them and with them!

Our school year is not yet complete, but we did finish our science curriculum this week!
<insert shouts of joy and wild applause>
Studying astronomy is an excellent way to invest in the science world, and, a fantastic way to force your eyes to the heavens to recognize and praise God for His wonderful works!
We had the privilege of looking to the skies with Caleb (his level of study was higher than Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie) and he definitely made the lessons more interesting!
We will cap off our astronomy study with a private tour of JPL (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in June and a visit to the Griffith Observatory this summer. A terrific ending to a terrific study!

My current reading curriculum.
Each book has a specific purpose and each one offers a unique spiritual challenge as well as a personal one.
It is not my pattern to read multiple books at once, for I prefer to give full attention to every word between the covers of one literary wonder, but for some reason, all four of them are demanding my attention.
And so - I read!
Honestly, I cannot imagine a life without books!
And life without Scripture? Impossible.
Praise the Lord for the beauty of both!

~~~ Happy Weekend to you!
As always, may your time be spent seeking refreshment to prepare you for the week ahead while seeking to serve and glorify the Lord in your rest.
And - here is a quote to think about while you do!
"Go to church once a week and nobody pays attention.
Worship God seven days a week and you become strange!" - A. W. Tozer