8.25.2016

Happy Birthday, Josiah!


Nine years ago the Lord brought you and your round head and giant blue eyes into our family ... 
and we have never been the same!

You are ...
affectionate
encouraged by words of praise
curious
compassionate
sensitive
thoughtful
a boy who likes to serve others
a boy who craves friendship and companionship
a lover of God's Word
and a boy who needs to know he is loved - and wanted.

The Lord created you exactly as you are, Josiah Timothy.
Every detail of who you are - physically, emotionally, intellectually - was designed by a God who loves you and wants to use You for His purposes, and for His glory.

You have to fight hard in so many areas, and I know you feel defeated. Often.
But you don't quit. 
You struggle - you know things are effortless for others, and difficult for you ...
but you keep going. You keep trying. 
And when you succeed, the smile on your face could light up a city block!

Josiah, God's purposes and plans sometimes include suffering and trials, and they can be hard to bear and frustrating to endure. But there is always a reason. Remember when we watched our ducks hatch from their eggs? Remember how bad we felt that they had to spend hours pecking through the shell and fighting to get out of it? It would have been so easy for us to break the shell so they could be free instantly - but they NEEDED the struggle. It's what made them strong, and able to survive outside of the protective covering.
Our struggles strengthen us. Mature us. Refine us. And most important ... sanctify us.
When you feel defeated and want to give up - pray.
When you feel misunderstood, rejected, or unloved - read God's Word.
No one knows you better than Your Creator - and no one can meet your needs like He can.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made, my son, and my prayer is that you will always look at life through a biblical lens and see yourself not as others see you - but as Christ sees you.

These are the verses I have for you this year ...

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

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually! 1 Chronicles 16:11

I love you, Josiah Timothy Eastman.
The Lord is teaching me how to love and serve you better, and I am a willing participant.
You bring me joy, and I pray I will become a mom who offers more compassion, empathy, and understanding as He transforms my thinking and refines my heart.

Happy 9th Birthday!
Mom

8.23.2016

Need: Met!

It's only Tuesday, and this has been a hard week.
Very few words have escaped my lips, other than what was necessary.
This morning a friend asked me a simple question in a text, "How are you?" My response, "On a scale of 1-10 ... I am a 2."
An hour later I was sitting in the parking lot of Costco with a van full of six enthusiastic children under the age of 9, waiting for Caleb. I was tired, frustrated, sad, conflicted, and worn.
One of my favorite worship songs began playing on the radio, and I laughed. Of course the Lord would let this song play right now!
I turned up the volume, let my head fall back onto the headrest, sang with the artist, and cried.
Not hard, not long (remember the six children?), but enough.
Enough to release the pressure that had been building since Sunday.
Caleb returned and we moved to our destination - the park - to meet dear friends.
The kids scattered throughout the playground, and I sat at a table alone, staring into the distance, and thinking. I kept humming the melody of the song on the radio, meditating on the truths of the lyrics.
Oh, Lord. What a mess. I am overwhelmed, I feel like a failure in so many areas, I am not sure where to start repairs and what to leave undone, I see a mountain of needs in front of me while I grasp a child's plastic shovel ... unable to make even a dent in the side, and I know that no matter how hard I try - how much energy and time and effort I throw at any of these things - it will never be enough because it is all done in MY power. MY strength. MY intelligence. MY plans.
But that is not how it is supposed to be. I know that. And yet, here I am, in the 'depths of despair' wondering how in the world I am going to figure it all out.
Lord - help me! I need You. I know I need You, but I honestly don't even know where to start. Which room needs to be cleaned first? What needs to go? What needs to be brought in? Help me, Lord. Make everything clear.
When I listen to this song, when I read the lyrics - I come undone. It is what I want. Rest - grace - holiness - HOPE. Not in myself, but in You.
Why do I stray so easily, Lord? If I KNOW You are all I need, why do I go looking for satisfaction, contentment, and peace in other places? Why would a person do that?!?
I don't want to be that person, Lord. I want to echo the Psalmist who declares that You are his cup and his portion - forever.
Help me, Lord! You are a faithful, gracious, loving, steadfast God who never gives up on His children. I have given You sufficient reason to give up on me more than once - yet You never do - because You PROMISE You will not. "I will never leave you or forsake you." It is YOUR promise, Lord. Thank You that when I am faithless You remain faithful, for You cannot deny Yourself.
Here I am. Confessing my sin, confessing my pride, and confessing my need for You.
I need You. More than anything or anyone else. So, please ... teach me how to surrender fully, trust completely, and lean wholly on You. 
Every day.
As a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, a daughter.
I have tried to do all of it on my own, and I can't. It is pride and pride alone that made me think I ever had a chance.
Forgive me, Lord. Take over, and show me how it's done.
I may not be as ready as I think I am - but I am willing.
Take me as I am, but please don't leave me that way!
I pray this with a childlike faith and a desire to increase it a thousandfold ... Amen.
My friend arrived and the Lord used her sweet spirit and calming manner to pull me out of my melancholy state, gain perspective, shake off the fog that had settled over me, and find a reason to smile.
He knew what I needed before I did - and He met that need.
Because that's the kind of God He is.

Lord I Need You

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

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

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

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

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

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

You're my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

(Listen here)

Quote. On prayer.

"Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly . . . " James 5:17

The thing which made Elijah pray as he did, was the man that he was. When our Great High Priest comes with the lighted torch of His grace, and ignites the wood of our being into a holy flame - then the sweet-smelling fragrance of our requests ascend acceptable to God, and bring down the benediction of His love. 

The art of prayer is a sense of desperate need! There must be a sense of need, and an earnest desire to have that need met. 
"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, 
 Uttered or unexpressed, 
 The motion of a hidden fire,
 That trembles in the breast."

Prayer is a sin-killer. No one can sin and pray; for prayer will either make us cease from sin--or sin will make us cease from prayer. 

Prayer is a power-bringer. It is the hand which touches the hem of the garment of Divine grace, and causes the life which is in the Divine One to flow into us. 

Prayer is a victory-giver. Bunyan's Christian found that the weapon of "all-prayer" was sufficient to wound and defeat the adversary who would stop him in his progress as a pilgrim.

Prayer is a holiness-promoter. It is like the gentle dew which falls upon the thirsty plants and causes them to be refreshed and bear fruit. 

Prayer is a dispute-adjuster. Let any two brethren who are at odds get on their knees, and ask the Lord about any disputed matter - and they will find the Lord saying to their troubled spirits,"Peace, be still." 

Prayer is an obstacle-remover, as Peter found when an angel came in answer to the prayers of the saints, and delivered him from the prison of Herod's hate.

Prayer is a Christ-revealer, for it clarifies our vision, and enables us to see unseen spiritual realities.

Prayer is the secret of a holy life! We cannot do without prayer. The spiritual life is born in prayer -and it flourishes, and is strong, as it lives in that same atmosphere!

It is not the arithmetic of our prayers - how many they are; 
 nor the rhetoric of our prayers - how eloquent they are; 
 nor the geometry of our prayers - how long they are; 
 nor the music of our prayers - how sweet our voice may be; 
 nor the logic of our prayers - how proper they may be; 
 nor the method of our prayers - how orderly they may be; 
 nor even the theology of our prayers - how good the doctrine may be, 
which God cares for. It is only fervency in prayer, which will make a man prevalent with God. Fervent prayer hits the mark, and pierces the walls of Heaven! "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much!" James 5:16


~ Frederick Marsh

8.19.2016

This and that.

This has been a super exciting week!

Great things are happening in our Orphan Care Ministry at church, including our own page on the church website (with our own logo!), thoughtful and generous gifts to bless our fost/adopt families, and an official Orphan Care Sunday is on the calendar in November! Woohoo! SO exciting!

We enjoyed our last beach day of the summer yesterday. The weather was PERFECT. A clear, blue sky, a soft breeze, warm but not hot, perfect waves, no crowds, friends, a warm, blazing fire, and a lovely sunset. A wonderful way to say goodbye to weekly summer days at the beach!

I had the privilege of being a 'character witness' for some dear friends who are adopting a baby boy from the Ukraine. I have never been listed as a reference for something so important, so I was stunned when I received the form and immediately sent my friend a note saying, "We MUST be good friends if you trust me to help get you a baby!" She laughed and said she will gladly fill out my reference when it's our turn. <smile>
I cried while writing about them. Not only are they adopting, they chose to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. Our world is so quick to ignore and discard the "unperfect" but they have joyfully chosen to embrace this sweet boy as their own and will love and cherish him every day of his life.
Thank You, Lord, for gifting people with huge hearts of compassion. How we need MORE like them!

Tonight we have 25 teenage boys spending the night for the End of Summer Guy's Night!
The evening started at our friend's house with dinner, swimming, and outdoor games, and they will descend on our house around 9pm for round two: video game tournaments, more food, worship, a devotion, and late night conversations and laughter.
Dennis and I always wanted to have a home where our kids could feel free to bring their friends to enjoy time together, so it is an absolute DELIGHT to see it happening!

~~~ This week also held a sad moment for the heart of our daughter.
Ellie's duckling Ariel died.
Ariel was running around with the other ducks as happy as could be, and a few minutes later - she was gone.
Luke buried the duck in the backyard, and made a grave marker to comfort his sister.
Ellie did not know he made it until she looked out the window and discovered it next to Ariel's grave. She squealed with delight and ran outside. Josiah and Isaiah ran to the front yard, clipped some flowers, and a few minutes later I found Ellie arranging them over the little grave.
She cried, and I cried with her.
Death is part of life, so tears are appropriate and expected.
We talked about this truth, hugged multiple times, she told everyone she saw that her duck died, and then - life went on.
Just as it should.

~~~ The stack of books I built for my personal summer reading makes up a varied list. And thus far, every single one has contained the exact words, thoughts, and convictions I needed - at the precise moment I needed them.
This book is no exception.
Dennis read it on his way to Lebanon where he spent a week speaking to teachers and students about learning disabilities and the need for compassion and empathy when interacting with students who have them. He gave away his copy to one of the Lebanese teachers he met and then immediately e-mailed me to say, "Please order a new copy. I need YOU to read this book!"
It sat in my stack for four months before I picked it up, and I am so glad I did!
As a mother of five dyslexic children, I understand much about learning struggles, but reading this book has shown me that I have been focused on the academic side, and almost completely ignored the social aspect.
The author has decades of experience and possesses a compassion for children/teens who struggle with learning and social issues that is rarely seen. I am only two chapters in and I feel as though I have sat through an entire semester of a college Special Education course!
If you are a parent, a teacher, a sibling, a spouse, or a friend of someone who must struggle every day with a learning issue, whether mild or severe, I highly recommend this book. It is practical, insightful, and offers HOPE that with intentional care and purposeful planning (along with unceasing prayer and wisdom from the Lord), you can help these children/teens succeed. Not only in the classroom - but in life.
(Note: This book is not written from a biblical perspective, so if you read it, do so with the text in one hand and a Bible in the other. As we should with any book!)

Our ducklings will be two weeks old on Sunday.
I thought the littles would be tired of them by now, but they are not.
They hold the ducks twice a day so they "feel loved" and babysit them while they eat in an outside pen so hawks do not swoop down to snatch them away.
We let them walk around the house for exercise (while following them with a pack of wipes to clean up their messes!), and Josiah and Isaiah and Ellie think this is one of the greatest things ever! It is funny to watch the ducks waddle around. They are curious creatures!

They did not imprint correctly since there were so many of us watching them hatch and holding them when they were born, but they definitely like to be held and petted by any human who is willing, so we have that going for us!

Their rate of growth is crazy. They are only 12 days old, but four times larger than they were at birth. Every day Dennis comments, "They look like they doubled in size since YESterday!"

We returned four of them on Wednesday since they are bigger and need more space, and each of us kept our favorites. (Yes, even me!)
Josiah kept Jack - Isaiah kept Ping - Ellie kept Hannah - I kept Davey.
One more week with these fun little creatures!
Thank You, Lord, for designing DUCKS!

~~~ The weekend is ahead of us!
I pray you will find great enjoyment in your personal relationships while looking for ways to honor others above yourself and opportunities to encourage and uplift everyone who crosses your path.

And, I will leave you with this question to ponder.
When you think of the way you utilize your time - the 24 hours you are privileged to enjoy each day - do you SPEND time - or do you INVEST time?

“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

8.18.2016

Praying, obeying, and abiding. A perfect trio!

This week our study group read chapter two of The Power of Prayer in a Believers Life and it was fanTAStic! Hardly a sentence was left without an underline, a highlight, or a response written in the margin. How I love reading the thoughts and convictions of godly men and women as they interact with the Word of God! Scripture is powerful and effective and most certainly stands on its own, but sometimes a writer has the ability to make Scripture come alive in a way that heightens our appreciation and understanding and makes us want to know it more. Spurgeon had that ability, and it is a blessing and a joy to be encouraged and challenged by his words decades after he put pen to paper.
Thank You, Lord, for the faithfulness of such men and women! 

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 
If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.
As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love.
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full
John 15

We cannot separate Christ from the Word. In the first place, He is the Word. In the next place, how dare we call Him Master and Lord and do not do the things that He says, rejecting the truth He teaches? We must obey His precepts or He will not accept us as disciples. Especially the precept of love that is the essence of all His words. We must love God and our brethren. We must cherish love to all men and seek their good. Anger and malice must be far from us. We must walk even as He walked. If Christ’s words do not abide in you - both as to belief and practice - you are not in Christ. Christ and His gospel and His commands are one. If you will not have Christ and His words, neither will He have you or your words.

The sentence that struck me hardest was this one: how dare we call Him Master and Lord and do not do the things that He says, rejecting the truth He teaches?
The Christian life is about OBEDIENCE. "If you love Me, you will obey My commands." But the obedience should not stem from legalism or works-based faith ... it should be an outpouring of love with a desire to obey because we love God and are so thankful for His saving grace.
I can say I do this. Sometimes. But not every time. And I hate that.
This sentence ...  If Christ’s words do not abide in you - both as to belief and practice - you are not in Christ. Christ and His gospel and His commands are one ... Oh my!
Like James says - be a DOER of the Word, not just one who hears the Word and then walks away and forgets.
This paragraph really hit me hard. It is a good hard ... but one I am not done processing or praying through or figuring out how/what I need to change. I keep reading it over and over again and each time I am hit with the same power of conviction.
I want to be called His disciple! So - obey I must.

You who have Christ’s words abiding in you are equipped with those things that the Lord regards with attention. If the Word of God abides in you, you can pray because you meet the great God with His own words and thus overcome omnipotence with omnipotence. You put your finger down upon the very lines and say, “Do as You have said.” This is the best praying in all the world. So be filled with God’s Word. Study what Jesus has said, what the Holy Ghost has left on record in this divinely inspired book, and in proportion as you feed on, retain, and obey the Word in your life, you will be a master in the art of prayer. You have acquired skill as a wrestler with the Covenant Angel in proportion as you can plead the promises of your faithful God. Be well instructed in the doctrines of grace and the let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, that you may know how to prevail at the throne of grace.

I LOVE this!
I started praying Scripture back to the Lord when I was in Bible college, but I did not appreciate it then like I do now.
When I counsel women, there are times when there are literally no words. No comfort, no solution, no answers. Promises cannot be made and guarantees cannot be offered.
But I can repeat what God has already said!
You put your finger down upon the very lines and say, “Do as You have said.” This is the best praying in all the world. YES! YES! YES!
Add to this the promise that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray and VOILA! The stress and burden of praying "the right way" is lifted, and we can come before the throne of grace with peace and confidence knowing the words are perfect - because they are HIS!
If we pray this way, and end each prayer with, "Not my will, but THINE be done," there is nothing left to do but sit back in peaceful contentment to wait and see what He will do, and how He will do it. This is EXCITING, isn't it?  I want to live this way. Every day. Every hour. Which means I have to be intentional  because it will not "just happen."
Make it so, Lord! Please - make it so!

If your prayers speed not at the throne, suspect that there is some sin that hinders them. If you do not abide in Christ, how can you hope to pray successfully? If you pick and choose His words and doubt this and doubt that, how can you hope to have speed at the throne? If you willfully disobey His words, will not this account for failure in prayer? But abide in Christ, take hold of His words, and be altogether His disciple, and He shall hear you. 

I think I may put this quote on a bookmark!
How many times do believers say, "I feel distant from God," or feel like He does not hear their prayers, answer their prayers, or give them the desires of their heart? I hear it often, and embarrassingly, I have said it myself.
And here is the perfect response. A checklist if you will.
-Are you abiding in Christ?
-Do you spend time in the Word daily?
-Do you have any areas of unrepentant sin in your life?
-Are you walking in obedience?
-Do you believe His Word and His promises - or do you doubt Him?
-Are you willfully disobeying Him in any area?
Basically, if we feel distant from God or it seems our prayers are bouncing off of the ceiling, it is time to step back and take inventory of the heart and mind. An honest and thorough inventory.
I love the end: BUT ... abide in Christ ... and He shall hear you.
There it is - the secret!
ABIDE.
In Christ.
Sacrifice everything else in order to cling to Him and draw from His resources. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Why WOULDN'T we want to live this way? And yet - we don't. Well, I don't. (maybe you all do?!?)
Oh, Lord, TEACH ME what it means to abide in You. Fully abiding, completely relaxed and resting in Your plans, Your purposes, and Your grace. I want that kind of prayer life, Lord. I want that confidence and that JOY. Help me, I pray. 

8.17.2016

Quote.


Christians are called to elevate the Lord and His Word above all our personal convictions and predispositions.
              
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? 
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; 
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 
... as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
I Corinthians 1

8.16.2016

We need beauty. Every day.


Sometimes we need to gaze upon something beautiful.

We need to be reminded that in the midst of trials and sickness, heartache and loss - there is HOPE.
Mistakes do not have to define us.
The world does not have to appreciate us.
Friends and family do not have to understand us.
Our passions and our desires are unique to how God made us, and how He wants to use us.
Our burdens and our sorrows are not meant to be carried alone, but shared.
Everyone will not agree with us, support us, empathize, or rejoice with us.
We are rarely able to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes," but we should sure try because hearing about something is not the same as LIVING it.
We need to ask people to let us into their story - because everyone has a story - and they need someone to read theirs. Then hopefully, each reader will add a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter that will enhance the story and bring joy to the writer.
We need to remember that everything is not about 'us.' People have struggles, sadness, trauma, and deep hurts ... and sometimes their actions, words, and responses flow from their pain and have nothing to do with who we are or what we do. They are hurting - and they need our compassion.
There is never enough encouragement, kindness, thoughtfulness, or grace ... but it is needed and DESIRED. By everyone.
We need to act like what we do matters - because it does.
Forgiveness is necessary - and healing. Both in the offering and the acceptance.
Words have the power to build up or destroy, so we need to think more - and speak less.
Kindness is what leads people to repentance - not arguments, harsh words, or wagging fingers.
Speaking truth is good. Speaking truth in LOVE is godly.
Scripture must be our standard for everything.
Prayer is essential. It cannot be neglected.

We need to gaze on something beautiful every day.
Colorful flowers, a smiling child, a beautiful piece of art, a star-studded sky ...
because beauty can always be found. Even in the ashes.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Psalm 34

8.12.2016

This and that.

This has been a fun week! Like living on a FARM. 
Not only did our ducklings hatch, we also experienced life with a reptile! 
This is Teddy. A 150-pound Sulcata tortoise.
We watched him for five days, and boy oh boy did the kids have fun with him! Even the bigs enjoyed watching him explore the yard, get stuck in the craziest places, and push solid iron chairs around like they were made of paper. 
It was a unique experience to be sure!

As for the ducklings ...
I LOVE them!
Every night I pull them out of their cage and spend time with each one.
I thought it would be impossible to tell one from the other, but we can! They have different markings and - different personalities. Some are sweet, some are skittish, and some are punks. (Each Eastman has a favorite!)
With all of the photos taken in this process, I realized there are none of me with the ducks. No proof that I like these little creatures. <Gasp!>
Micah and Luke happily remedied the situation with a photo shoot. I wanted to hold all of them at the same time, which was a sweet idea, but not a practical one.
It started well until the ducks started going crazy, hopping all over me and climbing on my shoulders and into my hair, which made me laugh like a little girl. SO fun!
These nine little fuzz-heads have brought us such joy!
I highly recommend doing your own Duck Experiment if you have the time!


The Littles wanted to do a "yearbook" for their ducklings to remember which one was which.
Here they are!
Simon ~ Mack ~ Davy
Quack ~ Ariel ~ Jimmy
Rapunzel ~ Hannah ~ Jack
(Did anyone catch the nod to Make Way for Ducklings?)

~~~ Dennis and Caleb are at a Missions Training for the Junior High youth group today.
A whole day of instruction to learn how to share your faith with love and respect for those you will be talking to about saving faith in Jesus Christ - and then - an evening of putting it into practice at an open-air mall downtown.
I love that we belong to a church that is missions-focused!
Preach the Word - Share the Gospel - Speak Truth - Do not be ashamed of the Gospel - LOVE others.
I am eager to hear about Caleb's experience!

~~~ While one of our children learns to present the Gospel so others will be rescued from the sin that condemns them, another child is sequestered to his room to pay the consequence of the sin that ensnared him.
One of the Eastmans, who shall remain nameless, decided to steal a candy bar from the store this afternoon.
We returned from our errands, put the items away, everyone went their separate ways, and then the child came inside to ask me a question - with a giant smear of chocolate across his left cheek. Uuummm ... ?
We spent a good five minutes in interrogation mode, of which four minutes was devoted to lying.
Seriously dude? The evidence is on.your.FACE!
He finally cracked, confessed his crime, and has been in his room ever since.
Tomorrow, he will walk into the store with his father, look into the eyes of the store manager, confess his crime once again, and then pay for the candy bar with his own money.
Sigh.
Parenting - the hardest job EVER!

~~~ Reading the book about adoption and preparing to talk to the Safe Families coordinator renewed my passion and energy and enthusiasm for the Orphan Care Ministry at our church.
My main job as the Coordinator of this ministry is to be a bridge between the fost/adopt families and the church. The parents are the ones fighting on the front lines for these kids. Their energy needs to be reserved for the spiritual battles they face every day ... not writing bulletin blurbs and creating lists of needs.
Through the praying and preparation, I realized that I have sorely neglected one of the greatest earthly resources available to meet the needs of these families - the CHURCH!
God has blessed His people with businesses and wealth and talents that can be used to encourage, provide for, and care for the families who are "visiting orphans in their distress."
I have barely scratched the surface, but with just three simple e-mails the Lord has already provided gift cards for free meals, gift cards for a family date night, and a whole day at the happiest place on earth - for EVERY one of our families!
Wow. Wow. WOW!
I am horrible at asking for things for myself, and I could not sell a cup of water to a man trapped in the Sahara desert, but I am not afraid to ask on behalf of those in need.
(If you have connections with places/people who will donate gift cards for restaurants/supermarkets/discount stores (TJ Maxx etc)/movie theaters/Babies R Us etc., I would love to know!)
The body of Christ stretches far beyond the rows of chairs in our sanctuary. His people fill the globe, and many have a heart for orphans ... they just need to know how they can be used to make a difference for the Kingdom!
"... for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." Matthew 6:8

~~~ This week has been such a blessing in so many ways.
Answered prayer.
A wonderful night of sweet fellowship with my girls focusing on the Word and each other.
A fun evening alone with Micah and Luke.
An incredibly thoughtful note from a dear friend.
Unity of heart and mind in our home as we step forward in faith with orphan care.
Encouraging conversations with brothers and sisters in Christ.
Beautiful weather.
Healthy children.
A faithful husband.
A lot of laughter.
God's animal creations in our own backyard.
LIFE!
For all of these, we give thanks to You, Lord!

~~~ Happy Weekend everyone!
I pray you will be inspired to do something NEW - something that MATTERS - and something that affects ETERNITY.
And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" Mark 8

8.10.2016

The orphan conversation is NOT over!

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

This passage may as well be an actual human hand the way it has been smacking me in the face for the past week.
Man!
I am a GREAT hearer of the Word. I love Scripture. Reading it, listening to it preached, using it to encourage others, thinking about it, talking about it, challenging others with it. Hearing? No problem!
But when it comes to the doing? Well, I can be a little slow out of the gate.
And I hate it.

This passage applies to every area of life, and I firmly believe the Nike swish should be a biblical icon. When it comes to God's Word, His commands, and His standards - do not question, do not whine, do not complain ... JUST DO IT!
Currently, the area in which the Lord is challenging me to "just do it" is TRUST - as it relates to orphan care.

Our entire family is in agreement about orphan care.
Dennis was in Lebanon when I sent him a link to an orphan respite care ministry and asked, "Interested?" He wrote back:
Michelle,
On April 15, 1968, I was adopted because someone else spoke for me when I could not speak for myself.
Now, we have the opportunity to serve those in need.
Let's do it.
I love you.
D
The littles would request their own baby so they could have one all to themselves.
When I shared our conviction with the older boys and asked them how they felt about it, their responses were simple.
Luke: "Why wouldn't we?"
Caleb: "You're going to adopt someday anyway, right?"
Micah: "Sounds good!"

That was too easy.

Research revealed that foster care is off the table because we have six children.
However, it presented another option - Safe Families. This ministry seeks to provide temporary care for babies/children so they do not have to be placed into the foster system. Families keep the child(ren) between one day and three months, and reunification is (almost) always the outcome. The 'rules' are less cumbersome because it is the step before the foster system.
Because it is not a government agency, the respite families are financially responsible for the necessities - formula/diapers/car seats/clothing.
This is where I hit PAUSE on the process - and my faith failed.
"How can we commit to the $ necessary to meet the needs of the babies that would flow through our home? We cannot even take a baby unless we get a 12-passenger van because we cannot fit another human in ours, and there is no way we can buy a new car right now. <sigh> Well, it looks like this door has been closed."

Fast forward four months.
I have a stack of books to read - two of them on foster care and adoption. I went to grab a new book last week, passed over both of the adoption books, and walked away.
3, 2, 1 ... overwhelming conviction. (It was not difficult to decipher since it sounded like the Lord was audibly screaming, "PICK UP THE BOOK, MICHELLE! NOW.")
I obeyed.
I sat on the couch and started reading Adopted for Life. Within 14 pages the conviction intensified from the repeated thwack of the Lord's fingers as He flicked me in the head with a, "Do you HEAR Me, daughter? Are you LISTENING?!?"
I closed the book and slouched on the couch covered by an invisible blanket of embarrassment and shame.
"Do I have ANY faith, Lord? What is going on with me? I have placed my hands on the belly of a miscarrying woman and begged You to restore life to the baby - because I know You CAN! I have pleaded with You to intervene in government and courts to change decisions that will affect millions of people - because You CAN! I refused to get off of the physician's table until I was fully surrendered to trust You and praise You whether the diagnosis was "Yes, you have breast cancer," or "You are cancer free." All of that, but I cannot trust You for an extra hundred dollars each month or a larger vehicle to provide for the needs of an orphan? Lord! Is my faith that weak?!? How can I trust You to raise the dead - but not trust You to supply diapers? Forgive me, Lord. And please - I N C R E A S E my faith!"

As He so faithfully does, He confirmed all of these thoughts. Within an hour.
First - the Safe Families Director sent me an e-mail asking, "Do you have any questions? I noticed you did not complete your paperwork." Hmm.
Next, my wonderful friend who has rescued three orphans listened to me share a 90-second version of this story while my kids loaded the G3 into their van. Her husband, who was putting strollers in the trunk, poked his head around the door and said, "I did not hear the whole conversation, but I will personally supply the diapers and formula for you. So you can mark THAT excuse off of your list!" Loving but firm rebuke: Accomplished!
Lastly, Dennis returned from work and I said, "Um, I am reading an excellent book on adoption and the Lord is making it very clear that I have not been obedient and that the Eastman-family-orphan-conversation is NOT over." He looked right at me and replied, "Of course it's not over."

?!!??!?!?!?!
Seriously, Lord?
How come it seems so logical and simple to everyone but me?
Come on, Michelle. You are a mature Christian. ACT LIKE IT!

The Lord is c l e a r l y asking me to trust Him - and - surrender ALL.
My concerns, my fears, my questions, and the unknowns.

God is calling our family to care for orphans in their distress.
He is not calling us to worry about money or resources.
And I confused the two.
As Dennis prayed last night, "Lord, You know what we "can't do," and You LAUGH when we are paralyzed by the "cant's" because YOU can do anything, and You delight in providing for Your children."

It is up to me to take a step of faith and trust the Lord to reveal the who/what/why/where/when/how in His time, and in His way.
So, I have a meeting with the Safe Families Coordinator tomorrow afternoon.

I don't know if the Lord is asking me to fully surrender and submit to foster care/adoption because we will have a baby in our home in six months, or if His plans are completely different than what seems obvious.
Either way? It is not my job to question.
My job is to say, "Yes, Lord. Do unto me according to Your will."
And then - step forward in obedience, and enjoy the ride.

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

8.08.2016

The Great Duck Experiment ~~~ A SUCCESS!

We did it!
A family that cannot successfully grow a plant in a pot managed to incubate and hatch NINE ducklings. Will wonders never cease!
This was such a fun activity for me and the littles. I wasn't sure if their interest would hold for the month-long process, but it did! They faithfully turned the duck eggs, candled the eggs, dipped them in water, and counted the days until they were supposed to hatch. And then, lo and behold, we heard the first duckling chirping on day 28 - right on schedule. 
I wish I could have captured the excited squeals and sparkling eyes of my children when they discovered the first duckling was making it's entrance into the world - they were PRICEless!
Thank You, Lord, for allowing us to watch Your handiwork this past month. You created each one of these ducklings, from the color of their feathers to the length of their webbed feet. It was such a delight to witness Your design from beginning to end. Thank You for the gift of LIFE! Even in the form of a tiny baby duckling - it is precious.


Watching with patient excitement as our first duckling breaks through it's shell.


The first-born duckling - Jack!
The rest emerged from their shells over the next 24 hours - and each one was a joy to behold.


The (VERY) proud duckling "parents."





And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 
So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. 
And God saw that it was good. ~ Genesis 1

8.05.2016

The privilege and power of PRAYER.

We have officially kicked off our Prayer Study!
One week in - one chapter completed - and WOW.
My first read in 2014 was convicting, and not one page was without underlines, highlights, and comments.
This read is no different.
The same thoughts, phrases, and paragraphs that grabbed me two years ago have me in the same grip now.
It is even better reading it with my sisters in Christ because each of us has a different perspective and response to Spurgeon's message based on who we are as individuals.
Our commitment: Read one chapter each week, exchange notes on Saturday/Sunday, and pray for 30 minutes each day. When we complete the book we will meet together to live out what we learned - and PRAY.
It is a timely and timeless topic, and I trust the Lord will convict us in a real, life-changing, faith-growing way, and give us a genuine and consuming PASSION for prayer.
Lord, increase my understanding and desire for a powerful prayer-driven life so I can live with a heart and mind that rests in the godly peace that passes all understanding because I continually lay everything at Your feet and trust You to care for it all.

These are a few of my notes from chapter one. The complete set filled three pages - because if I had written down EVERYthing that God used to pierce my heart there would have been nine! <grin>
How I treasure excellent literature! Especially when every page, every paragraph, every word makes me forget myself and points every thought toward Christ.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“True prayer is an approach of the soul by the Spirit of God to the throne of God. It is not the utterance of words, it is not alone the feeling of desires, but it is the advance of the desires to God, 
the spiritual approach of our nature toward the Lord our God.”
LOVE this.
If we read this quote before we began every prayer it would erase fears, concerns, distractions, and focus our thoughts on the LORD. 
If we entered a palace to meet a king or queen, we would not kneel before the throne thinking about our grocery list, how much weight we want to lose, or the family member who drives us nuts. We would be overwhelmed and awed by the beauty and splendor of everything around us. All of our worldly cares would be forgotten in those moments.
I am embarrassed to admit that I do not have an attitude of awe when I close my eyes to pray. Sometimes - but not enough.
Change me in this, Lord! Create a fresh, sincere, holy WONDER and DELIGHT for prayer based on the knowledge that I am entering the throne room of the King of kings!

“When prayer is the spiritual desire and fellowship of the human spirit with the Great Spirit, the Holy Ghost Himself must be present all through it - to help our weaknesses and give life and power - or else true prayer will never be presented. The thing offered to God will wear the name and have the form of prayer, but the inner life will be far from it.”
“The mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ is essential to acceptable prayer.”
AMEN and A M E N!
We do not know how to pray. Even our ‘best prayers’ are from the hearts of fleshly people who do not know the mind of God. We need Him to guide our thoughts/words/attitudes and expectations.
Thank You, Lord, for this wonderful gift!

“My heart, be sure that you prostrate yourself in such a presence. If He is so great, place your mouth in the dust before Him, for He is the most powerful of all kings. His throne has sway in all worlds. Heaven obeys Him cheerfully, hell trembles at His frown, and earth is constrained to yield Him worship, willingly or unwillingly. His power can create or destroy. My soul, be sure that when you draw near to the Omnipotent, who is as a consuming fire, put your shoes from off your feet and worship Him with lowliest humility.”
WOW!
This is powerful imagery. And convicting.
My take away from this is a conviction that I need to literally bend my knee before the Lord. 
We can pray anywhere at anytime because we have continual access to the throne, but when I pray I do not position myself as I would were I in a royal court.
There is a humility that comes with being bowed before another.
I think I need the physical posture of kneeling to focus my thoughts and prepare my heart to pray. This is my goal.
Lord - teach me how to pray!

“Whenever this throne is approached it should be with complete submission.”
“YOUR will be done, Lord!”
There is no better way to pray.
Jesus poured his heart out before the Father in the garden, asking for the cup of death to pass, and God the Father said, “No.”
If He denied His own Son, why should we presume to have all of OUR requests answered the way we want them to be answered?
Lord, may I ALWAYS end prayer with, “Not MY will - but YOURS be done.” Even when I don't understand or like it.

“As for our great King, when we venture into His presence, let us have a purpose there.”
YES! YES! YES!
Focus - purpose - intention.
Prayer is powerful - effective - life-changing - and a command.
I cannot treat it lightly or minimize the need for it.
“Let us have a purpose there.”
Purposeful prayer. I like that!

I am afraid we do not bow as we should before the Eternal Majesty.  ~ Spurgeon

8.01.2016

Quote.


Whatever it takes, Lord, keep me desperate for You 
because I tend to wander when I stop feeling my need for You.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your Word.” Psalm 119:67
                      
                                                      ~ Jon Bloom

Quote.


The hidden cost of pride - is isolation.


7.31.2016

Praising God for His work at Summer Camp!

This morning I sat in the youth room with 100+ teenagers as they worshiped the Lord together in song and shared testimonies about their week at camp.
And I was BLESSED.

For one hour nothing else mattered.
For one hour the cares of the world were not even considered.
No one in the room was focused on what was happening outside of it - but fully focused on the words and emotions shared by young men and women who love the Lord and are not ashamed to say so.

The theme of summer camp was "Run the Race."
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
The common take away that threaded itself through the student's stories was, "What do I need to get rid of so I can follow Christ with full commitment and full passion?"

A question every believer could ask - should ask - every single morning when we wake up.
Lord, what am I holding onto that will keep me from loving You, following You, obeying You, and delighting in You today?
And when He shows us what it is, because He is ALWAYS faithful to do so, we must yank it off of our bodies, throw it to the ground, and stomp on it until it is destroyed.
Crush the idols!

An Olympic sprinter does not run a race wearing a wetsuit, snorkel, and fins. It would be purposeless. Foolish. Futile.
Neither should the believer try to run the race called Christianity with ropes of 50-pound dumbbells hanging from his neck.
But we do.
Every time we love our sin more than our Savior,
every time we hold onto bitterness and anger,
every time we refuse to surrender our will and rest in His,
every time we let fear and worry control us,
every time we seek the applause of men instead of the praise of the Father,
every time we join the world instead of shining God's glorious light INTO it ...
we run with weights chained to our bodies - and then trip - and fall - making it nearly impossible to get to the finish line, let alone cross it.

But if we strip off all of it - every weight - every rope - every single thing that weighs us down, we can run FASTER - LONGER - and with an endurance that will carry us all the way to the end, where Jesus is waiting with arms open wide to welcome us HOME.
Looking to Jesus is what gets us home!
Listening to Him screaming in our ears while He runs along the sideline with us, "You can do this! I promised I would give you My strength! I promised you would never have to run alone! I know you are tired. I know you hurt. I know this is hard. But without suffering, there is no glory. Keep running, child! DON'T QUIT! Keep looking at ME! Don't look behind you - don't look around you - do not even look at how much farther you must go. Just LOOK AT ME! I created you. I love you! And I am never, ever going to let you go. Keep running, daughter. Steady your pace, son. When you cross that line - every pain, every tear, every struggle with be worth it. I will be there to hand you your crown and speak the words you long to hear, the words that kept you going in the long, hard hours of the race ... "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the JOY of your Master!"

Thank You, Father, for the work you did at summer camp this year. Our kids came home CHANGED. They are convicted to get rid of things that hinder their walk with You. They want to learn how to run a race of endurance rather than continuing short sprints that take them nowhere. Challenge them, Lord. Encourage them. Keep tipping their chins up so they look in Your eyes rather than noticing what the world offers them. Give them an insatiable desire for Your Word, a deep need for prayer, and a commitment to be accountable to one another and submit to one another as they link arms and run this race TOGETHER.
My heart is so full of praise for what happened last week, Lord. You are such a GOOD God and You love our children more than we even know HOW to love them. Thank You for digging into their hearts to reveal their utter dependence on You. May their enthusiasm and passion increase rather than wane as time passes and memories fade so when they look back next year they will see less of themselves, and more of YOU. 




On a personal note ...
a young man joined the family of God during camp!
One of our personal family friends - Ethan!

Dennis went to high school with Ethan's father, and his mother is one of my dearest friends, so when Dennis sent me this photo taken just minutes after Ethan answered the call of God and surrendered his life to His Savior, I cried tears of joy because of God's faithfulness.

Look at his face! PURE JOY. A young man who was changed from the inside out by a God who created him, loved him enough to die for him, and will never, ever stop the work He began on Thursday, July 28, 2016 until He calls Ethan HOME.

Thank You, Lord, for this wonderful, long-awaited answer to prayer!
You are SUCH a good God!

7.29.2016

Happy Birthday, Ellie!


My Ellie,

For six years the Lord has allowed us the joy of raising you, enjoying you, praying for you, loving you, and teaching you His ways.
How blessed we are!

You are strong
independent
affectionate
fun
thoughtful
great with babies and toddlers
a hard worker
tender-hearted
intelligent
full of energy
enthusiastic
a lover of music
motivated by words of praise
and a little girl who loves God.

I have no idea why the Lord chose to let me be your mother, Ellie Ruth, but I will never, ever stop thanking Him for the privilege of waking up to see your beautiful, smiling face every single day.
You challenge me, you convict me, you force me to my knees in prayer ... and I am grateful.
I am better because I have you in my life.
I want you in my life.
And - I need you.

I love you, sweet girl, and pray I will show you that love day by day as we continue to grow and mature and seek Christ - together.

Happy 6th Birthday, Ellie.
You are a treasure.