5.19.2018

A sweet Goodbye.


I have known these two since they were 15 years old. ♥
High school, college, jobs, weddings, babies, ministry, LIFE ... they have let me be a part of all of it.
About a year ago, they asked if we could meet with PURPOSE - to study Scripture, pray, and encourage each other as women and sisters in Christ - and I loved every hour we spent together.
They are honest, vulnerable, teachable, humble ... and they trust me with their hearts.
Today we met for Tea as a final Goodbye before Rachel moves across the country with her family.
It was a delightful time spent with two precious sisters, and friends.
Thank you, Noelle and Rachel, for inviting me into your lives, and choosing to invest in mine.
I love you. ❤ Michelle

5.15.2018

Orphan Care Night!

I’m so.very.EXCITED!
On November 1st, we have the privilege of hosting Tony Merida for a special Orphan Care event at our church.
This is HUGE, friends!
And A•L•L are welcome!
Whether you have
- a passion for foster care and adoption
- a tiny twinge of desire to pursue either one
- want to understand them better
- or want to learn how to support those actively fostering and adopting ... 
•Join Us!•
And please - Pray.
Foster care and adoption are not just rescue efforts to place children in safe homes ... 
they are rescue efforts for their SOULS.
Souls that were fearfully and wonderfully made by an amazing and incredible God. ♥

5.08.2018

Serving while waiting - and hoping.

Last night I had the opportunity to spend four hours with seven of my sisters who daily love and serve foster children and orphans. After four hours of conversation, encouragement, confession of sin, details of the brokenness and fear these children endure day after day, and tremendous conviction, I was so stirred up I felt like I could charge the towering inferno of "the system" with a plastic squirt gun - and win!

I could not settle down after they left. My mind was racing, trying to figure out how to shatter the barriers that stand between us and certification for foster care. We want the babies! One after the other to keep them out of hospital basements, police stations, and social worker offices while they wait for their forever family through reunification, long-term foster care, or adoption. How much longer, Lord?

Though the Lord quieted my heart and mind and blessed me with sound sleep, I woke up this morning with the same feeling of intensity and drive. Lord!? And in the still, small voice He so tenderly uses with His children, it felt like I heard Him say, "Remember. Go back to where this all began, trace My hand, and remember."
So, I did.
The result? Perfect peace.
I don't know. But I know the One who DOES! And that is enough.

I share our journey here to encourage anyone who is feeling the pull to pursue foster care, adoption, or lovingly support those who do. We are all part of a story the Lord began writing. The question is - what role is He asking each of us to play? May we all be motivated to respond quickly, and with joy.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Two years ago we received our quarterly report from the missionary we support in India. I usually glance through the letter, but for some reason, I felt compelled to read every word. It gave the usual updates and announced an exciting new ministry. A group of believers serving in a leper colony. They clean wounds, cook meals, and bathe the people afflicted with this disease. I stood in my kitchen with the letter in my hands. Stunned. They are washing the wounds of lepers. What did I do today?!?

Later that night while Dennis was shaving I asked him, "What did you do today?" He responded, and I asked, "Do you want to know what other people were doing today?" I read our missions letter.
He dropped his head back and groaned, "Do you want us to move to a leper colony, Michelle?"
"No," I replied with a grin, "but I am asking ... how are we using our time to serve the Kingdom? How are we serving 'the least of these'? How many people know Jesus because they know the Eastmans?"
Silence. From both of us.

The following evening we called a family meeting, shared the same story, asked the same question, and spent an hour discussing our family life.
We are a family of eight able-bodied people with strengths and passions the Lord has placed in each of us, yet every one of us squanders, at least, three hours per day. 
We asked the boys to think about their skills and interests because they do not need to wait until they are adults to impact the world for Jesus Christ. They can serve Him NOW. Right where they are - and affect eternity.

We talked about our family motto:
Soldiers for Christ
Protect the Innocent
Defend the Weak
Fight the enemy
Stand firm in the faith
"He has shown thee, Oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

It sounds great.
Are we LIVING it?!?

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2

Fast forward a week.
I sat in a chair on the beach with my toes in the sand while listening to a dear sister share her struggles and sorrows, her victories and joys. And as I listened I grew uncomfortable.
How have I served her? Have I been a faithful friend?
Lord, You have been stirring me up to do MORE. Now, here I am, looking into the eyes of a hurting, desperate friend who happens to have three rescued orphans living in her home, and this family needs a life ring the size of Kansas. Is this who You want us to serve? Is this who we have been waiting for?

I asked if I could tell her a story. The same story described above. When I finished, I looked her square in the eyes and said, "I think you are our lepers!" And she started to cry. Before the month ended, we were taking care of her children one day a week, and we just passed our two-year anniversary in March. ♥

However, the Lord was not finished stirring up compassion for orphans in the Eastman home.
He burdened my heart to have our family watch this movie together. To be honest, I avoided it for quite a while because I knew it was going to break me. I wasn't wrong.
We watched. In silence.
I soaked up every scene, every word, and shed several tears.
When it ended, I needed a moment alone. I stepped into our bedroom, grabbed a pillow, sat down on the bed, and began to weep from the depths of my soul. I could not reconcile the reality I knew with what I had just seen.
Dennis entered the room and said quietly, "I knew this is how I would find my wife."
He held me until the sobbing stopped, at which time I looked at him and asked, "There are just too many lepers, aren't there?"
He nodded solemnly and said, "Yes. Yes, there are."
"So what are we going to do? We can't be people who watch something like that, see the need, say, 'Oh, how awful,' cry, and then do nothing. What are we supposed to do?"

We didn't know the answer to that question.
We didn't know why the Lord was stirring our hearts, making us uncomfortable, and convicting us about how we spend time as a family, but He did. And He still does.
We did know one thing: Ignorance may be bliss, but once we are aware - we are accountable.
And as believers, we have no other choice but to DO.
"Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me." Matthew 25:40
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

Dennis and I have fully surrendered our marriage and our family to foster care and/or adoption if it is the Lord's will. He has not delivered an orphan or a foster child to the Eastman home yet, and He may never do so, but there are dozens of ways we can minister within the orphan and foster care community while we wait. For the need is great.

We do not have all of the answers.
There are obstacles in our way.
The Lord has not shown us the who/what/when/why/how of Eastmans and orphan care.
But, He doesn't have to! He has a reason for the passion and desire that is growing, not abating.
We don't have to know.
HE knows. 
All we have to do - is obey.

5.04.2018

He is greater than our need.

I have a great need for Christ.
I have a great Christ for my need. 
- Charles Spurgeon

This is a fantastic quote.
And one that brings great comfort.

We have received a continual stream of disheartening news the past few weeks.
People are hurting.
Sickness.
Job losses.
Broken relationships.
Wayward children.
Miscarriages.
Reputations tarnished through gossip and slander.

There are many who have a great need for Christ.
Broken, weeping, frightened, disheartened men and women.
They are overwhelmed, unable to see the rays of hope that flicker in the distance, and wonder how they will survive.
Praise God there is a great Christ who can meet them where they are - and make them whole.

Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. I Peter 5:7

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

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

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

5.01.2018

Because of them I am not the same. And I am thankful!

On my last night in Indiana, my sweet Michelle looked at me with a serious expression and said, "I have one more question, and I need to ask it before you leave."
"Of course! What do you want to know?"
Before she asked her question, she spent several minutes verbally walking through our history together.
How we met.
Our first real conversation.
The first time we met for discipleship.
The highs and lows we experienced personally and in relationships.
Her dating relationship with Daniel.
The engagement.
The wedding.
Married life.
Five years of memories.
While she spoke, she described her perspective on my investment and influence in her life and had me securely captured in her web of memories. I relived each one in my mind's eye, smiling and praising God for taking what was once a mentor relationship and turning it into - a friendship.
I was completely startled when she stopped abruptly and asked, "I know what you have done for me these past five years. But I need to know, what have I done for you?"
I sat across from her, speechless.
I was so engrossed in the details of her thoughts that I could not come up with one of my own.
But I knew one thing, thoughts or no thoughts. I love her. And I needed to tell her why.

I used to think it strange when older women were close friends with younger women. I wondered what they could possibly have in common. What they would talk about. What they had to offer each other. And then, when I was about thirty, the Lord pulled back the curtain and showed me how precious such a relationship can be through the example of my grandmother and her dear friend, Lois.

I had heard about Lois for years. My grandmother clearly adored her. They talked, they shopped, they ate out, they traveled together, and they confided in each other. Their husbands connected too. The four of them were friends. True friends. Godly "iron sharpens iron" friends. And in my ignorance, I assumed they were the same age. Until I met Lois in person and learned she was about twenty years younger than my grandmother! How could this be? I remember sitting in my grandmother's living room observing them, individually, and together. There was familiarity, ease, trust, and sincere affection between them. And for the first time, I saw it. Though my grandmother had two decades of days on her side, it was not a one-sided relationship. It was clear that Lois poured as much into my beloved grandmother as she received from her.

It was on that day, over fifteen years ago in a little room in Pennsylvania, that I purposed in my heart to enlarge my heart to learn to know, appreciate, and love older women. I had peers all around me and had been working with teens for a decade, but I began to crave older women who would pour their wisdom and experience into me. And, once I opened my eyes to see them, they were everywhere! Not mentors necessarily, but a coffee date here, a conversation there, and a three-year Bible study that continues to bless me to do this day all served to increase my understanding of the beauty of multi-generational friendships. I wanted everything they were willing to share and soaked all of it up like a dry sponge in a rainstorm. And then, before I had time to blink, I was the older woman! Forty years old. Married twenty years. Mother of six. And the Lord decided it was time for me to start ringing out my over-soaked sponge. All of those years, all of those women, all of their wisdom ... it needed to be shared with more than me.

Enter Michelle. And Janice. And Danielle. And Linsey. Mandy, Jaclyn, Kelsey, Elisabeth, Angela, Karen, Tiffany, Lindsay, Lauren, and the handful of other young women who joined us for shorter seasons throughout the years.

I was wrong all those years ago when I thought that friendships only worked if both parties were in the same season of life and had much in common. The truth is, the best thing about multi-generational friendships IS the differences! And as believers, we are all called to live out the one anothers of Scripture. Child, teen, adult, senior ... each of us has something to offer the other. And the best thing we can offer - is ourselves.

"My girls" (they graciously permit me to use this phrase ♥) allow me to watch them mature and grow in their walk with the Lord. They confess sin. Share deep and painful struggles. Speak truth. Encourage me with their energy and enthusiasm. Challenge me. Correct and rebuke me. And best of all, they invite me to join in their greatest joys and their deepest sorrows. Not because they have to, but because they want to.

I didn't know how to articulate the deep affection I have for my girls when Michelle asked me her question, but I do now. Though it may look different based on our seasons of life and experience, they live out the one anothers of Scripture as faithfully, as enthusiastically, and as willingly as any of my peers, if not more. They lift me up when I am low, pray for me when I am weak, rejoice with me when I rejoice, and love and accept me, just as I am. And I will never cease to praise God for the precious and beautiful gift of these women. For since I met them, my life has never been the same.

Love one another – John 13:34Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12
Build up one another – Romans 14:19Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Be of the same mind toward one another – Romans 12:16
Give preference to one another – Romans 12:10
Serve one another – Galatians 5:13
Receive one another – Romans 15:7
Be devoted to one another – Romans 12:10
Rejoice or weep with one another – Romans 12:15
Care for one another – 1 Corinthians 12:25
Comfort one another – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
Encourage one another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11Hebrews 3:13
Be compassionate with one another – 1 Peter 3:8
Pray for one another – James 5:16
Confess your faults to one another – James 5:16
Accept one another – Romans 14:1; 15:7
Be truthful with one another – Colossians 3:9

4.27.2018

A new lesson - and a needed reminder.

Monday night I had the privilege of meeting a lovely sister in Christ for the first time, and the Lord used our interaction to encourage and challenge me in a specific way. It was fantastic! As with most of the lessons He has for me, I was not expecting it, making it all the sweeter because it caught me off guard and forced me to pay attention. I love those kinds of lessons!

This sister spent the weekend with one of my girls, planning to drive home Monday morning, but decided to stay an extra day. I received a text from Danielle in the afternoon declaring, "She is staying another day! I invited her to join us for COMMITTED tonight and she said yes! See you tonight!" It is always exciting to have a special guest for our night of fellowship, and the girls are quick to welcome her and drown her in kindness and acceptance. (It is one of my favorite things about them!) It is not easy to walk into a room full of strangers who are already long-time friends who share honestly, deeply, and with vulnerability about the struggles and joys of their hearts. I was not that brave when I was young, so I marvel at their willingness to step into such an intimate setting. After observing the way they are drawn in, encouraged, and appreciated by their peers in such an authentic manner, however, I am a touch envious and wish I had been able to do so!

Every month I send the group an assignment to complete on their own, and then we share the details when we come together. They recently requested we go back to the "personal" studies, as we have been studying books of the Bible for the past year. The biblical applications of God's Word are wonderful since Scripture lays our hearts bare before Him, but there is also something wonderful about doing specific studies that focus on our personal struggles and sin. This was our focus on Monday. Areas of sin we are trying to work out and replace with righteousness, using Scripture to rebuke and support our position. Such a rich time of fellowship this was! And it was during this time that this new sister opened my eyes to two important truths.

First, meeting together as sisters in Christ to study the Scriptures, share each other's joys and sorrows, and pray together before the throne of grace is a privilege that must not be taken for granted, or neglected.
Second, we must be intentional about following up with one another after coming together to share such depth of heart and mind.

Toward the end of our discussion, I looked at our new friend and asked if she wanted to share. She looked at me thoughtfully and said, "You know, I am being so blessed by listening to everyone else that I am happy to be still and take it all in right now." Her response surprised and delighted me, and, of course, I wanted to know more. She revealed that her current profession has her moving every few months which is exciting and challenging, but does not allow her to attend church every week and makes consistent fellowship, specifically depth of fellowship, quite difficult. Even her close, personal friends are not available since they are in different states, causing her to feel a bit isolated at times. How thankful I was that she decided to stay an extra night - and spent it with us! The Lord knew she needed that time of talking and confessing and praying with other believers, and He was faithful to provide it.

And it made me wonder - do I have the same appreciation, desire, and gratefulness for such times? Do I long for fellowship with the body of Christ, intentionally creating opportunities to spend time with my brothers and sisters? And when I am with them, do I sit back and soak in all of the blessings that surround me like my sister did that night? Lord, if I have taken the body for granted, forgive me, I pray and make me more aware of the need for them and beauty of them so I may find great delight in times of fellowship and leave with a grateful heart.

During our time of discussion, we all agreed that each of us needs accountability in a specific area and tossed some ideas around for how we could provide accountability for a group of six people. We go to church together and interact throughout the week, so there are a plethora of ways for us to accomplish this goal. There is no absolutely no reason we should fail each other in this way. But my heart ached a bit for my blonde sister who would be driving away from us the next morning, possibly never to be with us again. Who will encourage her? Who will pursue her? Who will know when she is filled with sorrow and needs a kind word? Who will rejoice with her? We may not be traveling with her from city to city, but there is no reason we cannot stir her up to love and good deeds from afar! A text here, an e-mail there, and a hand-written card waiting in her mailbox will do wonders for her soul. Especially if each one is written in response to a prompting from the Lord, arriving just when she needs it most.

We have been meeting together for five years, our COMMITTED group, but it was last Monday night that the Lord revealed our theme verse! And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25

Lord, I pray You will make us faithful to this calling. We have walked through great seasons of rejoicing and deep valleys of sorrow, together, with Your mercy, grace, and kindness guiding us through each one. It is because of You that we are united, committed, and loyal to one another, and I praise You for such a gift! None of us knew what the future looked like when we met in my living room five years ago, but You knew! You draw each young woman here month after month, year after year, knowing exactly who she is and what she needs. And every time, You are here with us. Thank You, Lord. Increase our commitment, intensify our unity, and instill in us a desire to love one another more. This group is Yours, Father. Do with it what You will.

4.25.2018

What I want!

Show me the condition of your Bible and I will show you the condition of your soul.
- A. W. Tozer


This is a powerful quote.
And, 
absolutely true.

I love my Bible, but I do not love it enough.
It is worn, underlined, and highlighted, but it is not falling apart.

What I want it to look like,
 is this ...


And there is only one way it will happen.

One way to wear down the cover.
One way to wrinkle the pages.
One way to make the pages slip out of the worn binding.

Daily use.

Constant touch.
A continual turning of the pages.
Repeated opening and closing of the book.
- day after day - 
- year after year - 
- decade after decade -

When I die, I want my Bible to be evidence that I loved God's Word.
I want it to be obvious that I held it, read it, studied it, and understood it.
Not just because it is falling apart, but because 
I obeyed it.

With my whole heart I seek You;
let me not wander from Your commandments!
I have stored up Your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes!
With my lips I declare all the rules of Your mouth.
In the way of Your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. 
Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of Your words.
I rejoice at Your word like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love Your law.
Seven times a day I praise You for Your righteous rules.
Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for Your salvation, O Lord, and I do Your commandments.
My soul keeps Your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
I keep Your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before You. 
Psalm 119:10-16, 161-168

4.24.2018

Happy Birthday, Isaiah!


Nine years.
Nine years have been gifted to you by a God who created you with purpose and delight.
And we will never stop praising Him for choosing to put you in our family!

You are probably the easiest Eastman.
You march to the beat of your own drum and will disappear for hours engaged in private play.
One of your favorite activities is playing football - with yourself! Offense and Defense, complete with a detailed play-by-play as well as booing and cheers. You dive, roll, jump, spin, and tackle. It is hysterical to watch, and all seven Eastmans find great amusement in doing so!

You are thoughtful, affectionate, a deep thinker, and quick to laugh.
You are a good friend, quick to praise and celebrate the strengths and successes of others.

Listening to you pray is a joy and an encouragement, for you pray God's promises and character back to Him as though you have lived a full life of experiencing His promises.
I pray He will use your love for His Word to strengthen you and make you a godly man. And, use it to give you a strong voice to speak His truth and deliver the Good News of the Gospel to a world that desperately needs to hear it.
You are fearless and bold, Isaiah, and while those qualities can be used for selfish gain and sin, they can also be used to do great things for the Kingdom and for God's people.

You were named after prophets. 
Isaiah Daniel
"Salvation of the Lord" "God is my judge"

Your father and I pray the Lord will use you just as He used those phenomenal men ... to read, study, understand, and preach God's Word with passion and confidence, walking in faithful obedience, regardless of the response of men.

I love your introspective, thoughtful nature, and, your light-hearted spirit that always enjoys a good time. You have a balanced personality, and I pray the Lord will use that strength to help you master the skill of challenging people with truth while cheering them on to maturity and success in the Christian faith. 
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25

I love you, Isaiah Daniel!
And I am incredibly thankful that of all the mothers in the world, God chose me to be yours.

Happy Birthday!

4.22.2018

Dennis + Lebanon + Special Needs Celebration!

National Day in Lebanon was a success!

Dennis sent us a note asking us to pray that "the Lord would prepare the hearts of those attending the banquet," and that his words would be used to "bring God glory and encourage the people of Lebanon to continue their efforts to serve and minister to students with special needs."

After the event, he reported it was a wonderful evening with great responses from those in attendance. Praise the Lord! For it is He who moved the hearts of the Lebanese government to stand in the gap for children with special needs who deserve the same rights and privileges in education as everyone else. Lebanon is living out Scripture in a real and much-needed way.
Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all who are unfortunate and defenseless; Open your mouth, judge righteously, And administer justice for the afflicted and needy. Proverbs 31:8, 9
I asked Dennis to send his notes for his speech because I want to add my voice to the many who are already crying out on behalf of these students.
If one student, one parent, one teacher reads this and is encouraged to understand better, care more, or do more, then another child will be given HOPE through the kindness and grace of the one who seeks to understand what it is like to live in their world, and then, do something to make that world BETTER.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“They could not. I would not.” - Dr. Dennis Eastman

It is an honor for me to share this important and distinct day with all of you. To have been at the very first National Day and now see how it continues to gain momentum is truly exciting.

My remarks come to you by way of several perspectives:
My own as that of a parent and teacher
My students
My children

During my first year as a teacher, I had a student in my history class with a physical need. Though he could see large font, David was legally blind. His mother requested notes and lesson materials in advance so she could enlarge them on a copier. Believing this request to be inconvenient, I resolved I would not give the materials before the lesson.

A few years later I had Michael in my class. He had dyslexia. The learning center at the school asked that Michael be given extra time to complete tests. If the test was lengthy, the learning lab also requested I provide a copy of the test so Michael could complete it at lunch or after school. I considered this an unfair advantage other students did not have. I would not drop off a copy of the exam.

Ben could not sit still or stop talking. Every three minutes he would blurt out whatever came to mind in the middle of the lesson. His impulsiveness was becoming a distraction to me and to others. The learning center said he needed consistent routines and a predictable schedule. I was the teacher in this class. I would not be compelled to change my routines and schedule for his needs.

John could tell a story that was descriptive and engaging. However, when given a one-page writing assignment, the same story took him two hours and many tears to write. He asked for another way to complete his work. I considered his request unreasonable and labeled him as lazy, unmotivated, and defiant. I would not accept an alternative assignment.

The common denominator in each of these cases was that the students had a need which prevented their learning, and I made excuses that prevented their SUCCESS in learning.

They could not learn in the manner I was teaching.
I would not accommodate their learning needs.

It was my attitude that had the disability. I offered no assistance but gave labels and judgments.
It was me who was placing burdens on the backs of struggling students without lifting a hand to help.

They had no choice.
I made my choice.

Only after I had children of my own would I realize that by refusing to accommodate for the learning needs of my students, I was committing a form of discrimination and communicating to them that their needs were not worthy of my effort, and not as important as my convenience.

Some learning needs are physically invisible and emotionally private, but the effects of those needs are often quite public in nearly every arena of a child’s life. I have learned this first hand. My wife and I have been blessed with six children who have wonderful strengths and abilities. However, five of those six children have mild to moderate learning needs that affect their lives in a very real way nearly every day.

I have learned through many thoughtful and emotionally painful conversations with my children that students with learning needs do not desire our sympathy, but our empathy.
Sympathy offers a condolence or a message of, “I feel sorry for you.”
However, empathy leads to action.
Empathy does not judge how the person bears the burden, but asks, "How can I help with your burden?"
Empathy does not ask, “How smart are you?” but urges “How are you smart?” and comes alongside to aid in that discovery.

My son Caleb, who has dyslexia, has been an incredible example of empathy in the lives of children with physical and learning needs. To raise a few dollars for missions one summer, our children ran Camp Eastman. Parents dropped off their children and our kids played games and did activities with the campers. On one occasion, a wonderful boy who has a degenerative disease that has impaired his eyesight was one of our campers. Upon his arrival, Caleb ran down the driveway to meet Kyle. He then took him by the hand and began advertising the great things in store for him that afternoon. “Kyle, we have toys, cars, trains, we can build puzzles, and we are going to play games. If you need anything let me know because I will be right here to help you.” And then, during the relay races, he put Kyle on his back and ran with him so he could feel like he was part of the games.

The acts of kindness, compassion, and empathy, demonstrated by my son did more to help a child with a need in one afternoon than I had done in half my career as a classroom teacher. As this scene unfolded before me, I confess, I was convicted. His example greatly inspired me and has done much to help change my perspective and my practice of advocacy for students with needs of all kinds. Beginning with my children.

While learning invites a change in perspective, it also invites a change in practice. There are an estimated 1,172,038 school-aged children in Lebanon. If just 5% of the school-aged population had some form of learning need, that 5% would represent over 58,000 students.

When a country, and specifically, the universities, are committed to educating teachers to serve all students, including those with differences, teachers become ambassadors for change and opportunity in the life of a child. And when that effort is replicated across the country, those 58,000 children with learning needs experience learning in a whole new light. All of this begins - with a change in attitude.

I asked two of my sons, Micah and Caleb, both of whom have dyslexia, “If you could tell the people of Lebanon one thing they need to know about students with learning needs, what would it be?” Here is what they said:

Micah (age 18): “I would want them to know that I do want to learn. Actually, I really want to learn, but it doesn’t look the way it does for everyone else. I may not able to articulate it like my peers through papers and tests, but I can verbally tell them what I am taking in and understanding. Though there is very rarely an opportunity to do so verbally. The bottom line is, I really do want to learn and so do many other kids. We just need to find a different way to do it.”

Caleb (age 14): “I would enjoy school and give better effort if I could actually do the work. But since some things seem absolutely impossible, like math and writing, I don’t even know where to start. And it seems like I always fail, which is why I would rather do things I enjoy and things that come easy. It is not because I am lazy, but because everything in school is so very hard.”

An awareness of student learning needs offers a solid start toward change. However, a change of mind without a change of practice only ensures good intentions.

Consistent and broad interventions are required to make a real impact for providing support on behalf of all students. This undertaking is a worthy task to be considered by all. Education in this country, above all things, should be about equipping the next generation of the citizens of Lebanon. Education is about nation-building.

When all students are equipped with a quality education and taught to think deeply about solving problems, they will be more prepared to accept greater challenges and bear more significant responsibilities in the future. Including the responsibilities of contributing to their families, their workplace, and ultimately the nation.

Your willingness to set aside a day to come together as a country and celebrate students with learning differences provides a message of possibility, opportunity, and hope in the life of a child and for their parents as well.

Congratulations to you and your valued partners for your continued commitment toward taking active steps to come alongside students with needs as you seek to strengthen your amazing country one child at a time.

Thank you.

4.21.2018

This and that.

Happy, happy SATURDAY!
It is a gorgeous day! A bright, sunny, blue sky envelops us, and we have nothing we "must" do. A lovely way to spend the day!

Dennis and his colleagues arrived safely in Lebanon and hit the ground running as soon as the plane landed.
The team was invited to train teachers and administrators how to care for students with special needs as well as present seminars to help educators and parents understand the struggles their students face each day.
It is thrilling because Lebanon is one of the first countries in the middle east to recognize students with special needs. And they are giving it all they've got!
Dennis was honored to be asked to speak at the National Celebration of Special Needs Education on Sunday. How exciting it is to witness a nation not only embrace these students - but celebrate them!

Ministering to teachers, students, and families is a highlight for Dennis because he is able to combine his love of education and teaching with the Gospel. He returns to us invigorated, spiritually refreshed, and blessed after spending time with amazing saints who tirelessly serve the neglected and forgotten.
How thankful we are that he has a heart for this ministry! We miss him when he’s gone, but would never ask him to stay. And hopefully, one day we will be able to join him in his work!

Yesterday, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie and I were able to spend the morning at a science center in L.A.
The main purpose was to view the King Tut exhibit since we are studying the ancients in history. It was well done, but I fear we must travel to Egypt to get the full experience! <grin>
We are also studying astronomy, so it was a delightful surprise to be privately escorted into the Endeavor Space Shuttle hangar by a lovely docent who took pity on my children who did not possess tickets to enter.
And - WOW! The sheer size is enough to stun you, as are the details of this mammoth spacecraft. A space engineer gave us a private lecture and he was fantastic. I was thankful for such a privilege!

~~~ While we do not make huge and exciting plans when Dennis travels, we do have some simple and fun traditions when he is gone.
●The teens and I always have a Mom/Son date night, usually a movie marathon, complete with their favorite snacks. (i.e., junk food)
●Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie have a sleepover on the couch or in my bedroom. (Why is that sleeping somewhere different is SO exciting to children?!)
●I schedule extra nights of counseling/discipleship and have at least one friend over to enjoy a whole evening of conversation. This time it was my sister, who even spent the night! Such fun!

Two weeks ago we spent our final day caring for baby Josiah. So, of course, we had to do a photo shoot!
Because his mom trusted us with her precious firstborn, our children learned wonderful lessons during our three months with him. Diaper changing, making bottles, and feeding solid foods were the practical skills gained. Serving, sacrificing, putting the needs of someone else before their own, being attentive, and learning how to care for, love and protect an innocent child ... these lessons were invaluable.
We were blessed to have been trusted to serve in this way, and hope and pray we will be trusted again in the months and years to come. #bringonthebabies #prayingfostercareisinourfuture

Our curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year has ARRIVED - thanks to a small, yet helpful tax return - and I am EXCITED!
With the addition of the Bible, missionary biographies, online art lessons, +/- 200 books from our local library, and a few field trips, our 2018-2019 school year planning is complete! WooHoo!
Every spring I am driven to map out the plan for the following school year. Planning, research, assessment, and dreaming of what “will be” makes me happy, and I fully enjoy the process.
But dreaming cannot last forever, so I put away the books and turn my attention back to THIS year and kick into high gear so we can finish strong. And - with enthusiasm!
I LOVE LOVE LOVE homeschooling, and will never cease to give praise for the gift and freedom of being able to do so! #13yearsandcounting #prayingforcontinuedfreedom

Between the covers of this book, I met some wonderful new friends.
I thought I would know at least thirty of the men and women highlighted since the pillars of the Christian faith are well known and spoken of often.
Friends! I was wrong. I was familiar with less than ten!
But now? Not only do I know new names, I have been introduced to men and women who loved God fiercely. So fiercely, in fact, that their lives and witness for Christ were chosen to be listed as people who should be known. By every believer.
As I read the handful of pages which captured the essence of each life, I could not help but feel convicted and challenged. When I have breathed my last, will anyone be able to look at my life, my character, my walk with God ... and say, "You should know Michelle Renee Eastman!"?
"Live so as to be missed." That was the life mantra of Robert Murray M'Cheyne. And after reading this book, I believe he had it right.

~~~ Lord, may this weekend be used to refresh and revive us physically and mentally so we are able to dive into a new week with energy, enthusiasm, and strength. And, please Lord, revive our HEARTS, creating within us an insatiable desire to read Your Word and talk to You, every day, all day. For there is no one and nothing else that satisfies like You satisfy! We love You, Lord. Teach us to love You MORE.

4.18.2018

Camp Eastman is BACK! With a purpose.

We are excited to announce Camp Eastman 2018!

Micah, Luke, and Caleb have chosen to serve on mission teams this summer.
Micah and Luke will be going to Tepic, Mexico to run VBS for children, participate in evangelical skits in the city squares, compete in soccer games with local teens and young adults, presenting the Gospel after each game, and engaging in one-on-one evangelism.
Caleb will be part of our local mission team, serving in Los Angeles in a myriad of ways.

Of course, serving on a mission trip means they need to raise monetary support to GO. (The boys still need to raise approximately $1,000, combined.) And since we Eastmans do not possess skills that can be turned into tangible items to sell, we have to use what we do have - bodies that can work, hands that can serve, and hearts that like children.
Hence, Camp Eastman 2018!
Three hours of nonstop fun for children while their parents enjoy an evening out - alone or with friends.
A win-win for everyone!


Camp Counselors - Caleb, Micah, Luke
These counselors are in charge of children (ages 5-12) and answer to the director, Dr. E.
Their strengths: Relay races, games, sporting events, piggyback rides, and FUN!
Warning! They will absolutely exhaust your children with their activities. 


Camp Counselors in Training - Ellie, Isaiah, Josiah
These Counselors are in charge of babies and toddlers (1:1 ratio) 
and are supervised by the Camp Coordinator - Mrs. E.
Their strengths: Holding, feeding, playing, stroller-pushing, singing, dancing and being silly
Warning! Your baby/toddler may be returned to you spoiled!

➙The Details 

Dates
Friday, May 11, 5-8 pm
Friday, June 8, 5-8 pm
Saturday, June 16, 5-8 pm
Saturday, July 14, 5-8 pm
Drop Off: 4:45pm

20 Spaces Available for each camp
(5 spaces reserved for babies/toddlers aged 2 and under)
First Come - First Served!

B.Y.O.D. (Bring your own dinner)
We provide water bottles and dessert.

COST
Whatever you think three hours of freedom is worth!
All monies go directly to the missions fund.

Odds and Ends 
- Have your children wear tennis shoes! 
They will be walking, running, and moving the entire night.
- Bring sweater/sweatshirt in case it gets cool.
They will be outside the entire time.
- Bring strollers for the babies/toddlers so we can take them for a walk!

We hope you are able to join us for Camp Eastman 2018 to support our son's efforts to earn money to serve on missions teams this summer! And we thank you, in advance, for trusting us with your precious children.

Let the FUN and GAMES Begin!

4.13.2018

It's a choice.

Though directed at a group of pastors by a godly man who gave everything he had to the study of Scripture so he could faithfully feed his own sheep, this quote is a fitting challenge for each of us. Especially as it applies to the priority of reading Scripture and praying.

"We have plenty of time for all our work did we husband our time and hoard it up aright," he told them. "We cannot look seriously in one another's faces and say it is want of time.
It is want of intention.
It is want of determination.
It is want of method.
It is want of motive.
It is want of conscience.
It is want of heart.
It is want of anything and everything but time." - Alexander Whyte

An excellent and convicting quote, because the truth is, how we spend our time - is a choice.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17

O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before You.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Psalm 39:4, 5

4.11.2018

Let's ask better questions!

"Young man, you had better get to work for the Lord!" - D. L. Moody

Moody directed this statement to Reuben Archer Torrey when he was a student at Yale Divinity School in 1878, and the young man took it to heart. So much so that he caught the same passion for soul-winning that possessed Moody, later becoming the superintendent of the (current day) Moody Bible Institute and one of the founders of Biola University, as well as a respected author and passionate evangelist.

Fast forward 140 years.
In our culture, we focus heavily on college and career. "Where are you going to college?"
Athleticism and musicianship. "How many points do you average per game?"
Physical appearance and academic success. "How many scholarships did you receive?"
Even in the church.

But what would happen if we changed our focus to one that reflects Moody's heart? How much more encouraging would we be, how much more fruitful, if we asked young men and women questions that could alter the course of their futures - because the questions alter the direction of their focus?
"What are you doing for the Lord?"
"How are you using your gifts to serve the church and reach the lost?"
"How do you plan to serve the Lord while you are in college?"
"How will you use your profession to benefit the church and increase the Kingdom?"
"What kind of ministry do you want to engage in with your spouse once you are married?"

Nothing in Scripture instructs us to serve the Lord or the church when we are old.
No verse declares, "Live for yourself when you are young, and then when you are old, get to Kingdom work."
As soon as we are saved - we are to serve. Whether eight or ninety-eight, our spiritual gifts, our strengths, and our skills are to be used for the Lord. The who/what/when/where/how may change, but we best be about our Father's business!

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
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace...
I Peter 4:10
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11

"Young man, you had better get to work for the Lord!"

One sentence. One simple yet stimulating sentence that forever changed the course of a young man's life. R. A. Torrey intended to be a lawyer, caught up in worldly living while at school until the Lord grabbed a hold of his heart and created within it a passion for Himself, and for the lost. And lives were changed. For eternity.

Warren Wiersbe boasts of Torrey, "He stood like a giant at the time when winds of doctrine were blowing against the church and causing people to stumble and fall. In Reuben Archer Torrey, God proved once again that education and evangelism, depth and soul-winning, need not destroy one another. If a man submits to the Word and is filled with the Spirit, he can have an enlightened mind and a burning heart - and he can reach people for Christ." AMEN!

Torrey himself exclaimed, "I would rather win souls than be the greatest king or emperor on earth; I would rather win souls than be the greatest general that ever commanded an army... My one ambition in life is to win as many as possible. Oh, it is the only thing worth doing, to save souls; and men and women, we can all do it."

May we, like Moody, inspire the young men and women of this generation to do great things for God because we ask questions that will challenge their thinking and push their thoughts toward Christ. For, as Henry Varley said, "The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him."

4.09.2018

I, too, feel like I cannot speak.

During a delightful evening spent together as families, a sweet friend and I snuck some private minutes together to talk about things unique to us as women while our husbands were deep in discussion in another room and our children moved all over the house. How refreshing it was to exchange thoughts, concerns, prayer needs, and the way the Lord is currently holding His holy mirror to our faces to reveal our sin and help us lose our own images - and replace them with His.

I cannot remember how Amy Carmichael was welcomed into our conversation, but as soon as my friend heard her name she asked, "Have you read her book if?" I had never heard of it, so she explained the premise of the book adding, "EVERY time I read it I am so convicted I feel like I cannot speak for days." With an endorsement such as that, my only thought was to add it to my never-ending-and-always-growing book wishlist! I barely had time to look it up, however, when it arrived at my door.
(Thank you, C!♥)

It is a tiny book, just four inches by six inches, with barely 50 pages. But it is a POWERFUL book. After reading just a few of the "if, then" statements, I understood why my friend felt she could not speak after absorbing words of such deep conviction.

Though it would be easy to quote the entire book, I will let Amy's own words introduce it, and then write out some of the "ifs" that struck me like a blow. If you are familiar with Amy, you will be neither surprised nor offended by her blunt and intense manner. If she is new to you, take heart. Her intense, focused, passionate nature is exactly who God made her to be - so she could do the work He called her to do.

How if came to be written. "One evening a fellow worker brought me a problem about a younger one who was missing the way of Love. This led to a wakeful night, for the word at such times is always, "Lord, is it I? Have I failed her anywhere? What do I know of Calvary love?" And then sentence by sentence the "Ifs" came, almost as if spoken aloud in the inward ear."

if I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self-pity and self-sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve around myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I do not give a friend "the benefit of the doubt," but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if interruptions annoy me, and private cares make me impatient; if I shadow the souls about me because I myself am overshadowed, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if the praise of men elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (i.e., to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

How the book closes ...
"Let us end on a very simple note: Let us listen to simple words; our Lord speaks simply: "Trust Me, my child," He says. "Trust Me with a humbler heart and a fuller abandon to My will than ever thou didst before. Trust Me to pour my love through thee, as minute succeeds minute. And if thou shouldst be conscious of anything hindering the flow, do not hurt My love by going away from Me in discouragement, for nothing can hurt love so much as that. Draw all the closer to Me; come, flee unto Me to hide thee, even from thyself. Tell Me about the trouble. Trust Me to turn My hand upon thee and thoroughly to remove the boulder that has choked thy riverbed, and take away all the sand that has silted up the channel. I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. I will perfect that which concerneth thee. Fear thou not, O child of My love; fear not.""

Thank You, Lord, for the life and ministry of Amy Carmichael. Oh, how much I wish I had been her friend! Thank You for moving her head, heart, and hand to chronicle the lessons You so faithfully and lovingly taught her as she walked in obedience day by day, because as I read about her life and her astounding ability to depend on You and trust You for all things - it feels like she IS my friend. And I am thrilled that she is - my sister!

4.06.2018

Learning Needs and Special Needs are GIFTS!

It has been one month since I returned from my vacation. Many wonderful memories fill my mind from those exciting eleven days, but there is one thought that continues to bounce back and forth in my brain. I was 2,000+ miles away from home. Alone.

The trip was everything I wanted, but even more, What I Needed. Each time that truth fluttered through my mind I felt like the Lord was saying, "I know you appreciate how far I have brought you and your children, daughter, but I want you to look back - and REMEMBER. Not just the big picture, but the details." And He was right. Just as He convicts me to remember the details of losing our son to maintain fresh empathy and compassion for other women grieving over their babies, I must do the same with the details of raising children with dyslexia and ADD/ADHD. Parents of kids with learning/special needs often feel isolated and rejected, because the truth is, like anything else, unless we live it, we don't understand it. And sadly, we often make judgments based on our ignorance.
Spurgeon said it well: We should feel more for the prisoner if we knew more about the prison. 

As a mother, I studied the prison of dyslexia and learning needs immediately after discovering our children were living in it. What I didn't know how to do at the time, however, was bridge the gap between knowledge - and understanding. I read and researched and attend conferences to gain the knowledge needed to help my children. And I found it. I can spout off the characteristics of dyslexia and ADD without effort. But, who cares? We can find information anywhere. What parents need, what the children need - is empathy.

When I am looking into the eyes of a woman who is drowning in the seemingly endless assault of the crashing waves of special needs, she doesn't want to hear the science, the statistics, or the scholastic pieces of why her kids struggle. She wants the personal. She wants to hear me say, "I understand." She wants to hear my story because as she listens to the very real truth about my daily life, the ugly, as well as the beautiful, light shines into the darkness of her prison cell and she sees, maybe for the first time, that she is not alone.

So, what is my story? What would I say to a mother who has just discovered her child is dyslexic? What would I say to the woman in tears because no one understands her hyperactive child and constantly judges her? What would I say to the father whose son hates school, cries over lessons, and has been pushed into depression because he cannot succeed like other students and feels like he is worthless? Exactly what other men and women told me. The truth.

My children ...
do not talk - they yell
do not walk - they run
do not play - they wrestle
do not look - they touch
do not use items - they destroy them
do not sit still - they rock, roll, and twist
do not discuss - they argue
do not play games - they compete
do not focus - they dream
do not ask - they obsess
do not lie still and sleep - they roll around, talk, play, sing, and have conversations with themselves

-My children often don't respond to commands because they are hyperfocused on their current activity and cannot hear me. And it feels like they are ignoring me.
-When my children do hear me, they don't listen (even when they asked a question) because their minds are distracted by their next thought, a cricket chirping, or the memory of the delicious brownie they had for dessert last night. And they appear rude.
-I cannot give my children a list of commands because, by the time they complete the first item, all the other items on the list have been forgotten. It seems like they are disobeying.
-My children cannot see messes or plan ahead. They do not think about mildew collecting on towels shoved in a closet after a shower or Lego creations being kicked apart because they were left in the middle of the hallway because they live in the moment, totally focused on "now." But they seem lazy.
-When I make a change - any change - without informing my children, it causes tremendous stress and often, a meltdown that makes heads turn. And they appear inflexible.
-It takes my children three times longer than their peers to complete an assignment and almost always results in frustration and fatigue. While they did their best, they are labeled lazy and unmotivated because the scores do not reflect the effort.

At this point, I am met with enlarged eyes, head nods, and outcries of, "Yes! Exactly!"
(The same way I responded when others graciously pulled back the curtain on their family and home lives when I had just walked into the world of learning needs, desperately craving someone who understood my completely overwhelmed heart and mind.) It is a wonderful moment because it means she feels connected, no longer alone. It also means it is time to offer HOPE.

While all of the things listed above can be incredibly frustrating for the parent, they are even more frustrating for the child. And usually, not malicious. Most children do not wake up planning to break something, defy authority, or annoy people with their inability to read social cues. They just DO. Their minds work differently. Not wrong. Just different. And these differences are a GIFT! Because these kids cannot think/do/learn/behave like everyone else, they must find new ways to think/do/learn/behave. And inventors, scientists, architects, and entrepreneurs are born!
The destroyer may become an engineer.
The arguer may become a lawyer.
The dreamer may become an author.
The obsessive may become a modern-day Amy Carmichael who is fired up by injustice and completely undaunted when told, "You can't do that," while pushing her way into brothels to rescue children.

As parents, our job is to teach our children how to exist in a world that will not take time to understand their prison, or care. They must learn to manage their impulses, both verbal and physical. They must learn to see others, not just themselves, for life is not about them. We must teach them to desire and pursue character traits that are attractive, not repellants. We must teach them compassion and grace for others since they themselves require much of both. And without a doubt, we must help them discover their natural gifts and strengths so they can channel all of their energy and effort into things that will bring them success. Not only for themselves -but for the glory of God.

I could fill many more pages with examples of difficult days, out-of-control moments (both mine and theirs), tear-filled struggles, hard conversations, mistakes, and moments of complete brokenness. And I probably should fill those pages, because behind every example is an amazing, compassionate, grace-filled, sovereign God who chose this for our children, for me and Dennis, and for our family. He could have designed their minds and bodies and strengths a hundred other ways, but He made them just as they are, with purpose. For His glory, and their good. And I am thankful.

The road of dyslexia and ADD/ADHD has been a long one for our family. Learning needs and special 
needs are not isolated to a classroom or a school - but to LIFE. The Lord has been faithful to remind us how far we have come, but there is still more road to travel, and one day, our children will no longer be walking behind us, following where we lead. They will be grown adults, personally and wholly accountable for their thoughts, choices, and actions. Dennis and I will be seen cheering and encouraging them as we run on the sidelines until we breathe our final breath, but no matter how often our children look to us for help, we will point them to the One who created them, loves them, and died for them, and cry, "Follow HIM!" And then, passionately pray that our children will recognize the sovereign hand of God in their lives and say on their own accord, "Thank You, Lord! I praise You for I AM fearfully and wonderfully made. Just as I am."