2.26.2013

I am willing.

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in You I trust;
    let me not be put to shame;
Make me to know Your ways, O Lord;
    teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
    for You are the God of my salvation;
    for You I wait all the day long.
Remember Your mercy, O Lord, and Your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to Your steadfast love remember me,
    for the sake of Your goodness, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore He instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
For your name's sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the Lord?    Him will He instruct in the way that he should choose.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
    and He makes known to them His covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for He will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
    bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
    and forgive all my sins.
            ~Psalm 25

Isn't this Psalm lovely?  Filled with grace, confession, repentance, forgiveness ... and a reminder that even in the ugliest parts of us, where our sin hides deep, waiting for a chance to live and thrive again ... we belong to a God who desires our holiness and will instruct us in the way of truth, pardon our guilt, make us humble, pull us out of the net of sin that ensnare us, show us grace ~ and be our FRIEND.  What promises to cling to in our trials and distresses!

I currently have two women in my life whom the Lord is using to refine me - and they don't even know it!  One sat on my couch almost a year ago and shared some of the most embarrassing parts of her life with me, willingly, and I was able to identify with every-single-one-of-them.  We were both stunned.  She, because she could not believe an older, more mature Christian would admit to such failings and sin, and me, because I had almost completely forgotten about those secret places of my past.  After locking the door when we ended our evening together, I stood motionless as I recalled how gracious God has been not only to help me kill that part of my sinful flesh, but to let me forget it and move forward, rather than living in the eternal bondage of guilt.  (which has been my default most of my life)  I spent the next few days in a state of euphoria as I rejoiced over such a blessing.  I, Michelle Eastman, felt FREE from my past ... and had actually forgotten most of it.  What grace!  What mercy!

The other woman shared but a few sentences in a group setting, but she did so with such passion, sincerity and vulnerability that I knew there was something deeper that had to be explored.  She needed to share the details - the ugly - the shameful.  But you cannot do that with just anyone. You need trust, respect, and mutual transparency.  I prayed for her immediately, asking the Lord how I could minister to her and then BAM!  She asked if we could meet because she needed a "safe place" to bare her soul.  Me, Lord?  She is trusting me?  Okay - prepare me.  And boy did He ever!

And then these two women collided together when the Lord wrapped up all of their personal struggles and their sin and dropped them into my lap to untangle and study and sort out - and used every moment to walk me through my past to remind me ...

* There, but for the grace of God go I.  My sin is forgiven, covered, and I am under no condemnation - just the cleansing blood of Christ.  But - my past is REAL, and I cannot forget what I have been saved from ... I cannot forget how wretched I can be ... I cannot forget the shame and pain and struggle that I willingly engaged in.  Because if I do, I will lose all humility, and will not be able to sit quietly and listen to my sister in Christ as she shares her deepest pain, her deepest shame, knowing how much this confession is costing her.  I have to remember where I came from so I can fully embrace the beauty of God's mercy and forgiveness.  I need not dwell there, I am forgiven and set FREE - but I cannot forget.

* I may be 20 years older and 20 years wiser, but I am still a fleshly sinner who can fall back into the same pits I climbed out of - even willingly.  Conquering sin, and being spared from continuous temptation is a blessed thing indeed.  But I am a sinner.  I am not wholly righteous.  And as soon as I think I am untouchable in a specific area - satan will creep in and remind me just how quickly I can fall back into old patterns.  And sadly, even enjoy them!  Oh, Lord, please continue to kill the flesh I worked so hard to die to in my youth.  I never want to go back.  It took so much work and energy and effort to break those habits ... and I like being free!  I never want to wear the chains of bondage again! Remember not the sins of my youth, Lord!

* If given the chance, I would most definitely go back and change things about my past - make better choices - choose Christ rather than self.  There is no question about that.  But because I cannot go back ... I need to have a proper perspective about the empty chains collecting dust in my closet.  They are real.  They exist.  And right now, there is another woman who feels the same weight of her own chains ... she hears the rattling and cringes with the shame and fear of being found out ... she hates her confinement and wants to break free ... but every time she tries, she falls down again, cut and bruised, and feels like she will never, ever find that freedom.

And that is when I need to remember where I was - who I was - and the choices I made that broke the heart of God ... and RUN.TO.HER crying out all the way,

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
    and He makes known to them His covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for He will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
    bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
    and forgive all my sins.


And if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins, and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness!


Lord, thank You for using these two women to remind me of your huge, gracious, merciful, and forgiving heart. No sin is too great to be forgiven, and no sin is too small to be confessed. You let Your Son die on a cross so that I might LIVE. The chains are gone! I am forgiven! I am set free! Make me ever aware of my freedom in YOU – and keep me aware of the bondage I chose in the past so that I might
be a tangible source of encouragement and grace for a woman sitting across from me who needs to hear, “I know. I KNOW. And I know the One who can forgive you – heal you – and make you whole. Let’s go to Him – together.” My past cannot be for nothing, Lord. No matter how embarrassing, I am willing to let it be used for Your glory and to help heal another. Use me, Lord. I am willing.

2.17.2013

We have to cling to His promises.


There is always beauty to be found in the midst of trials.

sickness
loss of a job
defiant/disobedient children
death of a loved one
singleness
depression
rejection

Each of these trials are being experienced by someone I love.  Some, in my own home.  Each person has shared the hurt, the pain, the frustration, and the grief ... and I feel helpless.  I want to take the pain away, but I know I cannot.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just cannot understand the mind of God.  Or His will.  We want to trust - we try to trust - but it feels impossible to do so.
We want to know the "why."  We want to know the future.
Simply stated, what we want is - control.

But nowhere in Scripture does the Lord promise such things ... not once.

So where is this beauty I speak of?

Sometimes beauty is obvious.  We see it without even trying - like my tulips.  They are lovely in their own right, and bring pleasure to those who look at them.

But sometimes, the beauty is harder to find because we are so focused on our difficulties that we do not take any time to look beyond them ... and we miss the joys the Lord has waiting for us.

The Lord always shines HOPE and beauty into the darkness.  He has no choice because He is the light of the world!  His very presence breaks the power of darkness and despair, and He is always standing with outstretched arms, waiting for us to "Come."  Just as we are.

sick
jobless
grieving
single
depressed
rejected

The beauty He gives will look different to everyone, but the beauty of His PROMISES are the same for all of us.  And sometimes, His promises and His Words are the only beauty we can see.  And we must cling to them, with every ounce of strength we have.  Until the trials end, the darkness fades, and the beauty that has been there all along is as obvious as a vase full of lovely tulips.

I rise before dawn and cry for help;
    I have put my hope in Your word.

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
    that I may meditate on Your promises.

Hear my voice in accordance with Your love;
    preserve my life, Lord, according to Your laws.

My comfort in my suffering is this:
    Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119

2.06.2013

A quote - on holiness.

Would you be holy? Then Christ is the manna you must daily eat, like Israel in the wilderness of old. Would you be holy? Then Christ must be the rock from which you must daily drink the living water. Would you be holy? Then you must be ever looking unto Jesus, looking at His cross, and learning fresh motives for a closer walk with God; looking at His example, and taking Him for your pattern.

Looking at Him, you would become like Him. Looking at Him, your face would shine without your knowing it. Look less at yourself and more at Christ, and you will find besetting sins dropping off and leaving you, and your eyes enlightened more every day…The true way to be strong is to realize our weakness and to feel that Christ must be all. The true way to grow in grace is to make use of Christ as a fountain for every minute’s necessities.
I pity those who try to be holy without Christ! Your labor is all in vain. You are putting money in a bag with holes. You are pouring water into a sieve. You are rolling a huge round stone uphill. You are building up a wall with untempered mortar. 
Believe me, you are beginning at the wrong end. You must come to Christ first, and He shall give you His sanctifying Spirit. You must learn to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  ~J.C. Ryle

2.05.2013

It's time to get to work!

I find I have to re-write any notes I take in order to begin processing them and putting them into a logical order.  Scribbling thoughts down in the moment allows for recall, but not retention.  (at least not for this mind!)  Our Moms Night of Encouragement last night was exactly what I needed - and what I wanted.  The Lord used the biggest of things, like the main speaker, and the smallest of things, like a two-minute side conversation with a friend, to totally revitalize me.  I know I have been "off" for sometime, but I just couldn't pinpoint the why or the what.  And last night everything became clear.  I slept soundly, woke up feeling refreshed and ready to CHOOSE how I would spend my day. Because after all - it is a choice, is it not?  Will I choose to be thankful or will I choose to be discontent?  Will I choose to have a gentle and quiet spirit, or will I voice my every opinion?  Will I be kind with my words or harsh and hurtful?  Will I serve my children with joy or will I resent their constant demands?  I can only live today once.  And it is up to me whether it will be a beautiful day or an ugly day.  Even if my circumstances are beyond my control, and I have no power to change them, I can choose obedience to the Father - which means that in E V E R Y T H I N G I will give thanks!

These are my notes/thoughts/inspirations/ideas from last night.  No particular order.  Just, well, everything!

> Creating a Vision for Motherhood - the challenge:  Create a tangible, written, and specific vision for your role as a mother.

> I am isolated - not bearing others burdens, and not letting others bear mine.

> Quote:  Childhood has its final hour and then the veil drops ... and we are done forever.  J.R. Miller  The years of carefree childhood for my children are fleeting ... it WILL end.  I have to KEEP MY FOCUS.  I cannot go back.  I can only forget what lies behind and move forward to what lies ahead.

> Begin with the End in Mind!!!  What am I seeking to do as a mother?  SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST!  Reclaim that vision and purpose!!

> When the heart of the mother and the heart of the children are right - everything else falls into place.  Which means ... when everyone is doing what is right in his own eyes, nothing is right.

> Annoyance with my children = selfishness.  I am not getting my way, or they are interrupting me, or I am too lazy to do what I need to do - so I get angry.  "Do everything without COMPLAINING or grumbling."

> When I respond with anger toward my children, they lose sight of their own sin and veer away from repentance - because now they are focused on mine.  (!!!!)

> Am I DESPERATE for God?

> We relax our restraints with our children and spouse - those closest and most precious to us.  They see, and must endure, the ugliest parts of us - but we hold tightly to our restraints with everyone else.  This is not okay.  And certainly not biblical or godly!

> Praise and Affirmation - children need these like they need air!!!!  Everyone needs these. Every.single.day.
I love you
I am proud of you
I am so glad you are my son/daughter
You are special
You are smart/creative/thoughtful
I'm sorry

> If you want to know what a woman is really like, ask her children.  Others usually see our 'best' - but our children see our REAL.

> I need to repent the sinful part of my motherhood to my children - every time.  Not only to model what they should do when they offend others, but to model how God deals with us.  Repentance and forgiveness - both are beautiful.  And healing.

> Spend time with the Lord BEFORE I see my children.  Be ready for them.

> Commit to PRAY with each child EACH morning!!!  They need this spiritual start to their day as much as I do - and we need it together.

> Micah, Luke, Caleb - pray together as brothers each night before going to sleep.  They need to create a bond between them that is more than genetic - it must be a spiritual, godly connection - as men.

> The book of Proverbs is the PERFECT discipleship tool!  It addresses every area of life.  We read it, but we need to absorb it.  Memorize it.  APPLY it.

> The Lord gives us countless opportunities to "rescue our children from sin".  Think about that ... we would rescue our children from a stranger, a wild dog about to attack ... but we often let them continue in their sin because we are lazy and inconsistent in our correction and discipline.  It should not be!!!

> Micah Luke and Caleb - ask them to lead our morning Bible study one morning each week.  They will choose the passage, share the "why", and give a personal testimony about what God is doing with them personally.

> Consistency in disciplining our children requires A LOT OF WORK!  Which is why we need to be daily prepared for this role the Lord has given us.  We cannot raise our children, and we certainly cannot train our children in righteousness, on our own.  In our own flesh.  It is impossible!  We need the Lord ~ "I need Thee every hour."

> Start Character Camp - focus on only the basics of academics and spend the bulk of the day on character.  (The rest of February?)  Expectations, house standards, speech, attentiveness, complaining, selfishness.  Identify the sin in each child - and address the HEART.  "From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."  It will take time.  A lot of it.  But it is necessary.  We are raising Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie for ETERNITY!  So we better start acting like it!

> Why does Scripture exhort Fathers not to provoke their children to anger, but it does not do so for Mothers?  I can provoke my children in .3 seconds!  Why is it not a command for us?  I wonder ...

> SHOW AFFECTION TO MY CHILDREN!  Daily.  For no reason.  Hugs, back scratches, shoulder massage.  Just touch them!!

> The focus of the night:  A Vision for Motherhood.  We need GRACE to find that vision, and we need GRACE to live it out.

Gentleness of speech
Reliance on God
Affection in abundance
Consistency in discipline
Exhortation in love

> I need to regain my FOCUS as a mother and redefine my PURPOSE.  And then - get to work!

Lord, thank You for such an incredible night of revelations and encouragement.  You knew how much I needed that time - You knew how much I needed to see the filthiness of my own heart.  And as always, You met me where I was, and pulled my feet out of the mud.  My feet are still dirty, but I know where to find the living, never-ending, life-giving water that will wash me and make me new!  As Peter said - Not just my feet, Lord.  Wash ALL of me!