10.17.2018

A letter to mothers ... because what you do MATTERS!


Dear Mother,

What you do MATTERS.
The day-to-day monotony of motherhood may not seem glamorous, or even noteworthy, but every day that you invest in your child - you are doing something that matters.
Every diaper change, every meal made, every tear wiped away, every bad attitude corrected, every homework assignment worked out together, every car ride to practice, every book read, every hug given, every "I love you" whispered ... they make a difference.
A real difference.
You are not perfect. You will make mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes. But that is okay because perfection is not what is needed, or wanted. Children want YOU. All of you. The beautiful, the quirky, the odd, the different, the silly, and the embarrassing. They cannot love perfectly, so they do not expect it in return. They forgive quickly, and forget willingly, and run into the same arms for comfort and affection that disciplined them the day before.
Your children don't just want you - they need you. And being needed is a beautiful thing, indeed!
The world tells us we are "just moms" as if it is a meaningless, profitless, or undesirable title.
"Don't you want to do something MORE? Something that makes a difference?"
"Don't you want to be successful and make a mark on the world?"
The answer is, "YES! A hundred times, YES!"
I want to love my husband more.
I want to serve my family more.
I want to train and equip my children to be honest, loving, compassionate people who are quick to serve those in need and willing to comfort the endless tide of hurting, broken people.
I want to raise sons who respect women and are the same men of integrity in front of a Board of Directors as they are when sitting alone in front of a computer screen.
I want to raise a daughter who thinks of others before herself and seeks to serve and bless everyone around her because she knows that by loving others she shows them the love of Christ.
And when I take my last breath, with all of my weaknesses and failings, I want my children to be able to say, "She showed me Jesus every day." If the only mark I leave on the world is the gift of six children who love God with their hearts, souls, minds, and strength - and love others with compassion and humility - then it will have been the best, most profitable use of my time, and I will have no regrets. Only JOY.
Dear Mother ... you are not "just a mom."
You are a nurse. A protector. A comforter. A teacher. A counselor. A cook. A chauffeur. A coach. A cheerleader. A mentor. A safe haven. A prayer warrior. A theologian. A comedian. A joy-giver.
You are a child of God, created in His divine image, for a purpose.
And right now, "for such a time as this," your purpose is to train and serve and love your children, every day. Not perfectly, but like the woman who smashed the vial of perfume and poured it over Jesus' head ... "she did what she could."
What can you do today, Dear Mother?
Your children don't need a five-course meal. They need sustenance.
They do not need a perfectly decorated house. They need a place to run and skip and dream and read.
They do not a size "zero" mother with perfectly dyed hair. They need a mother who sees their beauty.
They do not need music lessons and dance lessons and foreign language tutoring. They need to sing and dance and talk and laugh at home.
What can you do today, Dear Mother? Not what "should" you do because others are doing this or that ... what CAN you do?
Bake cookies? Pick flowers from the front yard? March through the house to fun music? Read books? Nap with a little hand clasped tightly in yours? Write a letter of appreciation to your teen?
The world may say motherhood is "not enough." There "has to be more." "You can have it all."
Dear Mother, stand firm!
Motherhood may be one of the most difficult roles you have ever filled, with many thankless and trying days, but it is not wasted.
We are not raising our children to be Olympic athletes, CEO's of companies, or honor's students at universities. We are raising them for eternity!
Do not grow weary in doing good! Your efforts are not in vain!
Our children are not ours. They belong to the Lord, for it is He who created them, and He who has numbered their days and planned a course for their lives. And His plans - they are perfect!
Maria Shriver once declared, "Motherhood: On the Front Lines 24/7. Are you man enough to handle it?"
You ARE on the front lines because no one knows your children better than you do, and it is for them you fight. You fight for their safety, their health, their security, their comfort, their self-worth, their purity, their innocence. Dear Mother, you fight for their very souls! Never give up! Never, ever, never give up!
You are not "just a mom."
You are a precious, valuable, irreplaceable jewel that shines beautifully and brightly.
And every time you love a child, you make a difference. For eternity.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:25-30

10.15.2018

Excited and unashamed to SHARE!

We recently had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of Ray Comfort when he filled our pulpit one Sunday when our shepherd was away.
Ray's passion? EVANGELISM.
Nothing drives him more than sharing the truth of God's great love for mankind.
He will speak to anyone, anywhere, if they will allow him to engage in conversation.
He is honest, sincere, intelligent, and compassionate when he speaks the truths of God's Word, and listening to him share his passion stirs up a desire to be equally bold about the lovingkindness of a holy God who desires that none should perish, but that all would come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9, I Timothy 2:3,4)
I thoroughly enjoyed his message and was compelled to do more when it comes to sharing the Gospel.
He said much, but these were the four points that gripped me most.
(I added Scripture/quotes to give even more "umpf" to his fantastic quotes.)

I hope these encourage and challenge you as well!

➤We have an eternity to worship God, but only a short time to reach the lost.

➤If we lift our hands in worship to God, we must reach out our hands to evangelize for God.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14, 15

➤We don't obey the command to evangelize because it is easier to pray to God about men than it is to talk to men about God.
Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience. A. W. Tozer

➤If you are burdened by the fear of man when it comes to evangelism,
do not pray for less fear -
pray for more love.
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” - Charles Spurgeon

10.12.2018

The city folk enjoy some non-city fun!

Today, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie and I enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of the Industry Hills Charity Pro Rodeo in the City of Industry. It was a fun-filled and educational morning which provided a completely different perspective of daily life than we have in the city!
What made it even better was being in a small homeschool group of 20 (hundreds of children filed off of dozens of school buses) because our kids were able to get up close and personal at each station.
The riders, steer wrestlers, barrel racers and the rest of the rodeo crew were not able to do an actual demonstration of their skills, so we returned home to watch a competition from each genre online to get the full feel of a rodeo. Live action always supersedes video, but those videos certainly capture the beauty and the intensity of what these men and women do inside the gates!




 Josiah was asked to "assist" the blacksmith while he made a horseshoe.
(I put "assist" in quotes because all he did was turn a wheel to keep the fire going, which is clearly not a strenuous task considering his other hand is in his pocket!)


Isaiah volunteered to try roping.
The world champion made it look SO easy, but alas, it takes more than three minutes to become adept.


 A very generous owner allowed hundreds of children to walk in, climb through, and tromp around his cattle trailer. This thing was enormous - and odiferous!
But Ellie and Isaiah don't seem to mind!


Three world champion freestyle bullfighters!
I had NO idea what this was eight hours ago, but now I am a fan!
(CLICK HERE to see what these guys do!)


Shaved Ice for $1? YES, please!


The highlight of my day? Meeting a real, live alpaca!
Every time I looked at him - I laughed. OUT LOUD, real laughter! (look at that hairdo!)
I was hoping to get a photo hugging him, but he was not in the mood for affection.
I settled for a profile shot of the two of us together instead. (I LOVE the diversity of God's creation!)

10.09.2018

A VERSATILE woman!

Last night, five of us gathered to continue our Proverbs 31 study.
The first two character qualities we studied:
VIRTUE
VIGOR

This month's character quality - Versatility!

A versatile woman ...

❊ She excels inside AND outside the home
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. v. 15
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. v. 16
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. v. 27She is astute
She possesses a good sense for business
She makes things with her own hands and sells them
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. v. 24She is an excellent homemaker AND has the ability in the arena of commerce
She has a wide range of gifts, commitments, and relationships
Her domestic side is emphasized (verses 11-15, 21-23, 27)
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3-5

A godly woman ...

has great domestic instincts, but that is not the whole of who she is
❊ the home is the center of her life, but her life is not limited to the home
❊ is to be committed to her home, but she is not defined by what she does in her home
❊ has a range of gifts that must be given expression, and those gifts can be expressed outside the home as well as inside the home

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31: 10-31

10.07.2018

A Beautiful Birthday!


Today was a wonderful day - and a perfect ending to my birthday weekend!

Worship with the body of Christ
my husband of 25 years
my amazing children
the beauty of God's creation








Thank You, Lord, for the gift of LIFE!

My favorite people!

 






10.05.2018

47 years of BLESSINGS!


On this, my 47th birthday, I am thankful for ...

❤ LIFE!
❤ salvation
❤ a faithful, loving, protective, supportive husband
❤ Micah
❤ Luke
❤ Caleb
❤ Josiah
❤ Isaiah
❤ Ellie
❤ Matthew
❤ grandparents, parents, siblings, parents/siblings-in-law
❤ faithful friends
❤ discipleship and godly older women who willingly and graciously pour into me
❤ Scripture
❤ faithful men who study and preach the Word of God with passion and without fear
❤ the body of Christ
❤ encouragement
❤ compassion
❤ conviction
❤ old hymns
❤ hand-written notes
❤ worship music
❤ the color pink
❤ pretty stationery
❤ rain, wind, and clouds of all kinds
❤ excellent literature
❤ biographies of godly men and women who fully and faithfully surrendered everything for Christ
❤ giraffes
❤ my COMMITTED girls, past and present
❤ forgiveness - from God and others
❤ acceptance
❤ grace
❤ second chances
❤ laughter
❤ the ability, time, desire, and resources to serve others
❤ (good) milk chocolate
❤ Biblical quotes/books/sermons that challenge and push me to love, understand, and know God more
❤ people who trust me with their personal struggles and sorrows and allow me to share their pain
❤ the thrill of rejoicing with others when they are rejoicing
❤ mint-chip ice cream
❤ new pajamas
❤ memories of the past, the precious and the painful, because my past is part of who I am
❤ thoughtfulness in others
❤ the ability to move, see, hear, and speak
❤ restoration and healing
❤ deep, sound sleep
❤ sweet times of refreshment and relaxation with family and/or friends

Thank You, Lord, for the beauty and gift of LIFE! Thank You that I was fearfully and wonderfully made by Your own hands - with purpose - and no matter how I stumble or fall, Your purpose for my life will be accomplished. I ask for a year of great growth and maturity in You, Lord, knowing that what is required for both is not easy or always pleasant ... but necessary and good. You have gifted me with 47 years, and I pray You will grant me 47 more.

Let me live that I may praise You, and may Your laws sustain me. Psalm 119:175

10.04.2018

A fruit worth growing!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22, 23

The month's fruit of the Spirit focus:

gen·tle·ness
ˈjen(t)lnΙ™s/
noun
1. the quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered.
2. softness of action or effect; lightness.

Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:12, 13

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

Beautiful verses for a beautiful word.

10.03.2018

A wonderful Wednesday!


When ...
- you need 7,000 more steps to meet your daily goal
- you are tired of walking around your neighborhood
- you live 20 minutes from the Pacific Ocean and the sky is filled with gorgeous clouds
... you grab whoever is home and finish your steps by the sandy shore
while enjoying the company and the view!
🌊☁️🌴🌊☁️🌴
It was a wonderful Wednesday!



10.01.2018

God has glorious purposes for disabilities!

Please - take the time to watch this touching video clip before reading the notes from, or listening to, the sermon.

There is absolutely no way I can do this sermon justice by trying to pack it into a short summary, but there are a few points that absolutely deserve attention!

"Disability Glorifies God."

The text: John 9

In order to understand the theology of disability, we must align our thoughts with God's thoughts.

➛ God has glorious purposes for disability.
- it draws attention to God
- it displays His power and wisdom
- it shifts our perspective from earth to eternity
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

➛ Every human being is a divine image bearer, and therefore, INVALUABLE.
For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16


➛ Man talks ABOUT disabilities ... Jesus talks TO the disabled.
- Compassion, care, and tenderness are displayed through the touch of the Master's hand.
As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.
“Go,” He told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam”
So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. John 9:1-7

The BEST part of this passage is verse one.
"As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth."
The disciples saw a problem.
Jesus saw a MAN.
And after He saw him, He ministered to him. 

➛ When we see others through the eyes of Christ,
we see His work displayed in greater - and unique - ways.
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. I Corinthians 12:22-26

➛ Man's greatest disability is spiritual - Unbelief.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when He found him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is He, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in Him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him. John 9:35-38


Jesus PURSUED the man!
He took the initiative to find him.
When he did, the man believed - and became a child of God!
And the first thing he did? He WORSHIPED His Lord!


Father, thank You for the joy of Disability Sunday! Thank You for bringing our brother Paul, a man who has held and wept over and prayed for his own disabled children, to open Your Word and share Your heart for those with disabilities.
Nothing You do is accidental or without purpose, Lord, so even though we do not always understand Your ways, we thank You that You do everything for Your glory and our good. It may take time for us to identify and embrace the good, for it does not always look the way we expect or want it to, but when we are seeking You and trusting You and surrendering everything to You day by day, You quiet our hearts and still our minds so we can hear You speak through the beauty of Scripture. "I AM fearfully and WONDERFULLY made." HE is fearfully and wonderfully made. SHE is fearfully and wonderfully made. The world may not always agree, but the world is not whom we seek to praise or serve. It is You and You alone, Lord. 
Thank You that You can handle us trusting You while we simultaneously question and wrestle and grieve while trying to understand and accept Your will. In our humanness, we collapse under the weight of the unknowns, but in our surrender to a holy and loving God, we find peace.

9.29.2018

Fun - Friendship - and $5 bills!

There are MANY details behind the story of these $5 bills, but I want to share a few because they make me smile! 
πŸ’΅ When we shared our desire to do emergency foster care for babies, our dear friends, the Guskes, announced they would save $5 bills for our adoption/foster care jar. I was blessed, but not at all surprised, by her generosity because the Guskes are GIVERS. In all areas of life and love.
πŸ’΅ Somehow, it was not Julie, but her husband P.J. who ended up being the one to use cash most and would receive change - in $5's!
It got to the point where no matter what he purchased, he ALWAYS received $5 bills! (He once bought a $1 bottle of water with a $20 bill, expecting to get a $10, a $5 and four $1's in return - but instead - was handed THREE $5 bills! At which time he texted Julie and said, "Tell Michelle the Lord REALLY wants me to support her foster care ministry!")
It's happened so often that when they were recently on a trip and Julie declared, "I am dying of thirst! I am going to buy a water bottle,” P.J. immediately called out, "DON'T use a $20 bill!!!!!!" πŸ˜‚πŸ€£πŸ˜…
πŸ’΅ The $5 Foster Fund has become a running joke in the Guske home, and I love hearing all of their stories!
My favorite thing, however, is that they use it to start a conversation about foster care/adoption with the person who hands them their change. {BRILLIANT!}
After sharing the $5 tale with a clerk at their hotel, she handed P.J. his change, and there were three $5 bills in the stack. He looked directly at her and asked, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?!?" She simply smiled. And Julie laughed. πŸ˜‚πŸ’™
How glad I am that God made His creation to serve and love - with humor!
#fostercare
#adoption
#wecannotdoeverything
#butwecanalldoSOMEthing

9.28.2018

We must remember.

martyr (mΓ€r' ter) n.
[<from the Greek word for "witness"]
1: a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
2: a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3

Josiah, Isaiah, Ellie and I just finished this book. It was a terrific companion to our history focus the past two weeks - the early church and the martyrs who willingly, and often joyfully, gave up their lives for the sake of the Gospel. I won't lie ... it is a hard read. My children waited for tears to fill my eyes near the end of each story, for they know how deeply I am affected by testimonies of the steadfast faith of godly men and women who boldly refuse to denounce Christ to save themselves. The tears fell, my voice choked, and my children, too, were affected.
Who, I wonder, would not be moved by such accounts? Even those who tortured the Christians with vehement anger were silenced and awed by their unwavering commitment to their Lord. And many torturers, like Paul, surrendered themselves to the very God they sought to destroy.

There are dozens of similar books. Volumes filled with the testimonies of those who were tortured and lived, and eyewitness accounts from those who watched their brothers and sisters die - for Jesus Christ. And these books matter. They do not make the reader "feel good" but they absolutely force the reader to think. Am I willing to die for Jesus Christ? Is my love for God bigger than my fear? Do I hold the same conviction that compelled Jim Elliot to risk everything to bring the Gospel to a people who had never heard the name of Jesus? "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Would I suffer or die so my neighbor, my uncle, my governor, my senator might truly live because they witnessed me singing hymns to my God and praying for my torturers and could not resist the desire to know and love the same God?

If you have never read the powerful stories of the men and women martyred for Christ, please do.
If you have read them, read them again.
Because, brothers and sisters, we cannot and should not - forget.
"Never did the church so much prosper and so truly thrive as when she was baptized in the blood. The ship of the church never sails so gloriously along as when the bloody spray of her martyrs falls on her deck. We must suffer and we must die, if we are ever to conquer this world for Christ."
- Charles Spurgeon


A few highlights from the book Jesus Freaks. (stories provided by Voice of the Martyrs)

- A Christian prisoner in ____ was asked to sign a statement containing charges against fellow Christians that would lead to their arrest.
He said, "The chains keep me from signing this."
The officer protested, "But you are not in chains!"
"I am," said the Christian. "I am bound by the chain of witnesses who throughout the centuries gave their lives for Jesus Christ. I am a link in this chain. I will not break it."

- An officer told a Christian he was beating, "I am almighty, as you suppose your God to be. I can kill you."
The Christian answered, "The power is all on my side. I can love you while you torture me to death."

- The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society. There are things for which an uncompromising stand is worthwhile. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

- Sufferings gladly borne for others convert more people than sermons. - Therese of Lisieux

- You can kill us, but you cannot do us any real harm. - Justin Martyr, 165 AD

- Two Chinese Christians were led to torture and death.
One quoted Jesus' words, "It is finished," in a whisper.
His brother answered, "No, that's not what Jesus said when He suffered. He said, 'It is accomplished.'"

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed,
because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
I Peter 4:12-16

The story I found most touching was titled "Her Last Prayer."

The soldiers had discovered their illegal Bible study.
As the pastor was reading from the Bible, men with guns suddenly broke into the home, terrorizing the believers who had gathered there to worship. The officer shouted insults and threatened to kill the Christians. The leading officer pointed his gun at the pastor's head. "Hand me your Bible, he demanded.
Reluctantly, the pastor handed over his Bible, his prized possession. With a sneer on his face, the guards threw the Word of God on the floor at his feet.
He glared at the small congregation. "We will let you go," he growled, "but first, you must spt o this book if lies. Anyone who refuses will be shot." The believers had no choice but to obey the officer's orders.
A soldier pointed his gun at one of the men. "You first."
The man slowly got up and knelt down by the Bible. Reluctantly, he spit on it, praying, "Father, please forgive me." He stood up and walked to the door. The soldiers stood back and allowed him to leave.
"Okay, you!" the soldier said, nudging a woman forward. In tears, she could barely do what the soldier demanded. She spit only a little, but it was enough. She too was allowed to leave.
Quietly, a young girl came forward. Overcome with love for her Lord, she knelt down and picked up the Bible. She wiped off the spit with her dress. "What have they done to Your Word? Please forgive them," she prayed.
The soldier put his pistol to her head. Then he pulled the trigger.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15

9.26.2018

Both are NECESSARY. And both are GOOD.


To meet needs is noble,
but to admit our own is still necessary.
- John MacArthur

This is SUCH a fantastic quote!
And few words need to be added to the Scriptures which support it.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." John 13:12-14

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 2:14-17

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16

Wonderful verses. Clear commands. Beautiful images of serving and loving others.
But let's be honest.
It is often far easier to serve others than to ask for others - to serve us.
And yet, when we don't ask, when we refuse to share our needs because of pride or fear, we not only rob others of the blessing of ministering to us, we rob them of the joy of walking in obedience to the Lord by living out what Scripture commands.
It is, without a doubt, an absolute JOY to serve others when they are in need.
So we must remember that they feel equal joy when they are given the opportunity to do the same - for us.

Serve one another – Galatians 5:13
Rejoice or weep with one another – Romans 12:15
Care for one another – 1 Corinthians 12:25
Be kind and forgiving to one another – Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13
Comfort one another – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
Encourage one another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13
Be compassionate with one another – 1 Peter 3:8
Pray for one another – James 5:16

Lord, make us men and women who are as willing to be vulnerable and admit we need one another as we are willing to serve one another.
Serving is easy because we can hide our own struggles and sorrows behind smiles and platters of pasta and a few hours at the park with someone's child. We can serve without being "known."
But admitting we are weak, admitting we cannot do this thing called 'life' on our own, and admitting that we need someone else ... these things put us in a place of insecurity, transparency, and vulnerability. We worry more about whether others will reject us than wonder how they will LOVE us.
Forgive us for this, Father, for it is You who created the body of Christ for a purpose - to serve one another. Love one another. Care for one another. Comfort, encourage, and show compassion to one another.  It is often easier to DO these things than to RECEIVE them, Lord, but oh, how beautiful it is to be on the receiving end of such kindness and grace!
Teach us how to do them better - giving and receiving. You created both, for both are necessary.
And everything You made and everything You do - is GOOD.
May we learn to meet the needs of others and admit our own with humility and grace, and glorify You in the process. Amen.

9.23.2018

A wonderful gift!

Recently, after a particularly discouraging week, the Lord used one of His children to brighten my day, and refocus my perspective.
My sister-in-law, Denise.♥
Unbeknownst to me, she had tucked a card into Dennis' duffle bag when he went up north to visit Mom Eastman.
After he returned, I was unloading his bag when I came across the card - which had my name on it.
When I opened it, a check fell into my hands and these words were written inside the card...
Michelle, 
I love that you have a heart for orphans and I hope this contribution will help you get closer to those who hold your heart.
Love, Denise.
Such precious and thoughtful words! Just when I needed them most.

I placed her card next to our foster care/adoption jar and read it repeatedly in the days ahead, encouraged each time. It was the phrase "a heart for orphans" that gripped me with every read, and I began to wonder, "How does Scripture describe God's heart for orphans?" It was a worthy search, for the treasures are rich!

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:17

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3

The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin. Psalm 146:9

O Lord, You hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline Your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. Psalm 10:17, 18

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. Psalm 27:10

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation. Psalm 68:5

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

How good our God is to use the body of Christ to encourage us in the faith and spur us on to love and good deeds! Our callings and our convictions may be different, but our need for encouragement and support is the same, and He supplies it in abundance through the faithfulness and obedience of our brothers and sisters. Thank You, Lord, for such a wonderful gift!

9.21.2018

HIS ways. They are always better than mine!

The fear of falling in love with a child and then losing him/her is a real one. 
Today, 750 children will enter foster care with the hopes that someone faces that fear head on and loves them in spite of it. - Johnston Moore

This quote hit me hard.
The Lord continues to increase our desire to engage in foster care while continuing to ask us - to wait.
We know the "why" of the waiting and we are obeying His orders (admittedly, with impatience at times), but we are also working hard to get ourselves ready for the day when He says, "NOW! It's time! Let's GO!" Oh, friends! What a day that will be!

We knew when we surrendered our family to foster care/adoption the ride would be anything but smooth and simple. Orphan care is a spiritual battle, and the enemy never sends his weakest warriors to fight. We have not even filled out an application yet, and already he is trying to discourage us.
I will confess that he has accomplished his goal more than once. We take three steps forward and he knocks us back two. BUT GOD. Every time the enemy takes a swipe at us, the Lord delivers a counter-attack and sends him scurrying back into the hole where he belongs.

I am grateful and embarrassed when witnessing such a scene because I am reminded of how small my faith really is. Why do I care about the tactics of the enemy? Why do I think he could possibly win? If God has called the Eastman family to take in children through foster care and/or adoption, n o t h i n g will keep His will from being accomplished! Including my own weakness.
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

Forget your own ways, Michelle! Acknowledge the Lord. Let HIM direct. If you do, you will always be going in the right direction.

I love that Scripture makes everything so clear. No confusion. No questions.
Be still and KNOW - that I am God. Psalm 46:10
He is God. I am not. My only choice is to surrender. And trust.

So, I do.
And, I will.
Over and over again until I stop trying to do things my way, and let the Lord do things HIS way.
Because His ways are always best.

This God—His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true;
He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 18:30

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8, 9

9.20.2018

Working early feels good!


When you and your boys are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:30 am, and the school day does not begin until 8:45, it is the PERFECT time to pull the couch apart to vacuum every nook and cranny, sweep/vacuum under and behind said couch, and rotate and vacuum the rug
(with the scent of chocolate chip muffins baking in the oven)- because you can!
The BEST part?
Everyone was so thrilled with the cleanliness and freshness of the room, they asked if we could do ALL of our school lessons in it! (after consuming the entire pan of a dozen muffins, of course)
The answer was a resounding, “Yes! Yes, we can!”
(I’m now pondering what we can deep-clean on our next “early morning of energy!”πŸ˜‚)
P.S. The early-morning gray skies affected my camera lighting.
Our shutters are not actually streaked with black spray paint!

9.19.2018

Boldness produces STRENGTH.

Sunday.
Wow. What a sermon!
Though I have been sitting under excellent expository teaching since I was twelve years old, I never cease to be amazed by the impact of a powerful sermon. Pastors who speak the truth with passion and courage, no matter how unpopular, are the men I want to listen to and learn from, and then implement their teaching into my personal life. Praise God for men who daily bury themselves in God's Word, and then share the truth, the wisdom, and the encouragement they find within its pages with the body of Christ week after week! They are treasures.

Our text:
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16

"Made Strong"

- Exasperation and exhaustion in any and all areas of life can cause us to want to give up.
- We must be made STRONG in the Lord in order to endure the difficulties of life.
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Proverbs 24:10
 - Grace = Divine energy!
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
I Corinthains 15:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. I Peter 5:10

➙The Exhortation v. 14
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
hold fast = to cling to someone (CHRIST!)
Don't give up! Don't turn back! Don't surrender!
HOLD ON to your public confession of Christ! 
... but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Hebrews 3:6

➙The Encouragement v. 15
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus understands us because He was LIKE US. Human - weak - tired - angry - tempted - sad.
Be encouraged!!! 
You have full access to the High Priest - Jesus Christ - and He is everything you need!
Jesus is ...
"The Son of God - mighty to save, and the son of man - ready to feel." J. C. Ryle
Though Jesus is exalted, He is NOT indifferent!
Jesus' fight with sin was greater than our fight because we yield to temptation - but He NEVER yielded! (like a boxer who goes the full 15 rounds instead of being knocked out in round 3)

➙The Expectation v. 16
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We must go before the Lord BOLDLY and EXPECTANTLY.
We should expect to receive mercy and grace because He promises to give it to us!
Our God gives Grace for our steps and Mercy when we stumble.
We also recieve Help!
When everything is falling apart, GO TO THE LORD for help!
Not yourself, not people, CHRIST!

"Come" = come and come and come again! (present tense verb)

Draw near constantly, through prayer.
Anytime. All the time. The Throne Room is ALWAYS OPEN!!!
Draw near candidly.
Boldly. Without fear. Open. Frank. Honest. Emotional. As you are!
Draw near confidently, with expectations.
Expectations of help in a time of need.
Time of need = a specific time, and a specific need
As your days, so shall your strength be. Deuteronomy 33:25

Thank You, Lord, that when we come weak and troubled before Your throne, boldly sharing all of our sorrows, You sympathize, You encourage, You help, and You make us strong.
You are such an amazing and good God!

9.18.2018

I want a disposition like his!

I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing the praises of Your name, O Most High.
Psalm 9:1, 2

This is one of my (many) favorite passages of Scripture.
I love it because it is a reminder that praise, honor, and gratefulness to our God are - a choice.
We decide if we will praise Him or ignore Him.
We choose to give thanks for all He has done, or complain about what He has not.
We choose to proclaim His deeds to those around us - or remain silent.
We decide if we will rejoice in Him or rebel against His will because it does not match our own.

Two verses.
Two verses packed with a challenge. Will we match the passionate commitment of the Psalmist?
I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing the praises of Your name, O Most High.

Out of curiosity, and because I find word studies fascinating, I looked up the verb "will" in the dictionary and found the definition perfectly fitting.
will 
1—used to express a future event
2—used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent
3—used to express a command, exhortation, or injunction
4—used to express frequent, customary, or habitual action or natural tendency or disposition
5—used to express probability
6—used to express inevitability, determination, insistence, persistence, or willfulness
7—used to express capability or sufficiency

Can you hear the heart of the Psalmist echoed in those descriptions?
desire
choice
habitual action
disposition
persistence
inevitability

An excellent reminder that we must be purposeful and thoughtful about thanking, talking about, rejoicing in, and praising our God. And if we are purposeful, perhaps one day "I will" shall become "I do" and "I am" because like the Psalmist, we, too, will possess a disposition of habitual rejoicing in our God!
I do give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart;
I do tell of all Your wonderful deeds.
I am glad and rejoice in You;
I am singing the praises of Your name, O Most High.

May it be so, Lord. May it be so!

9.13.2018

I "have to" - and I am GRATEFUL!

Spending time studying the Vigorous Woman in Proverbs 31 filled my mind with dozens of thoughts, questions, and ponderings.
First and foremost, I had to ask myself, "Am I a vigorous woman?!?"
Then followed considerations such as, "Do I work hard to care for and meet the needs of my family?"
"Do I fill my time with good things, purposeful things, things that bless my husband and my children?"
"Am I busy serving my family and others or am I idle?" (idleness is not the same as rest)
"Do I have a vision for the future and plan accordingly?"
"Does my work glorify God and bless others?"

These questions have been rolling over and over in my mind, and last night I was not able to go to sleep because of the rolling. I kept thinking of all the things I need to do/have to do to run our home, serve Dennis, and train our children. I started with the first moment I open my eyes in the morning, moved through the details of a typical day, and recorded the plethora of items that flooded my mind.
When I looked back over the list after the last wave finally washed over my mind, I smiled.
I smiled because the Lord opened my eyes wide to show me that while there are many things I
"have to do," they are not burdens. They are BLESSINGS!

I have to ... 
Wake up early because ... I have a family who needs me to serve them and prepare them for the day
Wash dishes because ... my family has food to eat
Do multiple loads of laundry because ... my family has clothes to wear and keep them warm
Clean bathrooms because ... my family has clean water with which to brush teeth and bathe
Sweep and mop floors because ... my family has feet to walk and play
Grocery shop because ... the Lord provides money to buy food for our family
Go shoe and clothes shopping because ... the Lord provides money to cover my family
Prepare lesson plans because ... we have the freedom to homeschool
Teach my children because ... I have children who are able/willing to learn
Make meals because ... my family is healthy and able to eat
Drive teenagers to work because ... they have jobs and are learning hard work and responsibility
Drive teens/children to sports practice because ... they are healthy and able to move
Get everyone ready for church because ... we have freedom of religion and a church family
Exercise because ... I am alive and healthy enough to move
Pay our bills because ... the Lord provides a job for Dennis to support our family
Buy hay and rabbit food because ... we have a pet to love and enjoy
Fill up the gas tank and maintain the van because ... we have a vehicle to drive that holds our family
Pay for health insurance because ... our family is taken care of when sick or injured
Say goodbye to Dennis every day because ... he has a job that provides for our family
Wash and change sheets because ... we have beds to sleep in
Trim bushes and pull weeds because ... we are surrounded by the beauty of God's foliage
Organize bookshelves and closets because ... our children have books to read and games to play
Restart Wifi multiple times because ... I can communicate with people around the world
Plan for birthdays and holidays because ... there are always reasons to celebrate
Go through trials because ... they force me to fall deeper into the outstretched arms of God
Die to self because ... Dennis and my children need me to love God, and them, more than I love myself
Pray and read the Word because ... I am dependent on God for all things

I am committing myself to eliminate the phrase "I have to" from my vocabulary and replace it with the phrase, "I GET to!" because serving my family, and working hard to bless them is a PRIVILEGE, not a chore. Thank You, Lord, for opening my eyes to this beautiful truth!

Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. Proverbs 22:29

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands! Psalm 90:17 

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. Proverbs 31:17 

She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. Proverbs 31:19

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

9.12.2018

A woman of VIGOR!

Another excellent study with my girls!
We dove right into our discussion on this month's attribute of the Proverbs 31 woman and did not take a breath until the last "Amen" was spoken in our closing prayer time.
It was lively, interesting, convicting, and uplifting, and after each person spoke, someone from the group shared a word of encouragement and praise - just for her. I LOVE when they do that for each other!
We are already eager to begin the next study!

I pray you will be encouraged by this lesson. 

The Proverbs 31 monthly assignment:
- listen to the entire sermon and then listen (again) to the specific point we are studying
- record the areas in which you already see success - and - where  you need to grow and mature 

The first character quality we studied - VIRTUE.

This month's character quality - VIGOR.

What a Woman of Vigor looks like:

❃ She is a worker, a busy bee
❃ She has a zest for life, and her satisfaction in her work is a catalyst for the zest
❃ She has an irrepressible desire to bless her family
❃ She is the opposite of the sluggard
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. v. 31
❃ She is up early, preparing for the day
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens. v. 15

❃ She is not idle
❃ Because she is purposefully busy, she can protect herself from sin because there is little/no time for idleness, gossip, meddling in the business of others, complaining or whining
❃ She cares for the home
❃ She prepares everyone for their day
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. v. 27
❃ She plans ahead for the needs of her family
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. v. 21
❃ She has vision
❃ She is orderly and disciplined
❃ She is thoughtful
❃ She is not overwhelmed by thoughts of the future
❃ She can laugh at the future because she is prepared, and she is prepared because she planned
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. v. 25
❃ God is a worker, so she is a worker!
❃ Her work glorifies God
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. v. 30
❃ Her work blesses others, especially her family
❃ She pours herself into others (she is a faucet - not a sink!)
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” v. 28, 29


An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31: 10-31

9.10.2018

The Eastman Academy 2018-2019. School is in session!


The Eastman Academy is OPEN for education!
We are celebrating our 14th year of homeschooling - and we are thankful!

Our 2018-19 THEME:

Pursuing Wisdom
When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
Proverbs 4:3-9

Our Scripture Memory Challenge:
Proverbs 2 and Proverbs 3

Let the Learning Begin!






Our High School Students!
(This photo collage completely sums up their relationship - 
and the disdain in the first photo is genuine, not staged.
A rebuke may or may not have been given during the photo shoot. <grin>)


Luke - Senior!


Caleb - Freshman!


Our Elementary Students!


Josiah - 5th Grade


Isaiah - 4th Grade


Ellie - 3rd Grade 


 The Eastman Academy now has an Alumnus!
It just wouldn't be right to leave out the graduate since ...
Once an Eastman ALWAYS an Eastman!