3.30.2015

It's what He made me to do.

The Lord confirmed something important last week after I spent four precious hours at the beach with a young woman in the midst of great sadness and pain.

Ministering to the brokenhearted and walking beside those who want to grow and mature in their faith is what God has called me to do.

My husband and children come first. They deserve, and must get, the best of me.
My extended family and friends follow.
After those, there is nothing that stirs my soul or makes me feel more obedient than sitting across from a hurting woman who needs encouragement, or a young woman who desires to know and love God more.

I am not a fun, frivolous, or light-hearted woman.
I was none of those things as a child.
I have fun, I enjoy laughing, and I find pleasure in many things, but my nature is a serious, introspective, and intense one.

I have been told countless times in my life:
You need to lighten up.
Re-lax.
You're too serious.
You're too intense.
Why do you have to make everything spiritual?

I used to apologize. (And if I am honest, sometimes I still do.) For being me. Simply because someone was not happy with who I was. They wanted me to be someone else. Someone I did not know how to be. And I failed often because it was not authentic or sincere. I was acting - performing - attempting to make them happy so they would accept me ... even though what they were accepting was a lie.

And then the Lord stepped in - with abundant grace - and showed me my flawed perspective.
It felt like He was bent low, looking me square in the eye asking, "Did I make a mistake when I made you, Michelle? Did I overlook something? Or can you believe Me when I say that I made you in My image, and everything I make is good? I created you, just as you are - and I am pleased."

Oh, the shame in that moment. But because He is so loving and kind, He immediately directed my thoughts towards truth and set my feet back on solid ground.

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. Psalm 139

But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8

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

When I am serious and intense, completely focused on digging into the hearts of others to help them discover their own hurts and needs so they can take them to the Savior - I'm doing what He created me to do.
I feel alive in those moments!
To (loosely) quote Eric Liddell, "When I counsel/encourage/support/draw out/pray for a brother or sister in Christ, I feel His pleasure."

I will not apologize anymore because doing so diminishes God's work in me.
I want to echo the Psalmist, "I will PRAISE YOU because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!"
He has shown me that this is not arrogance ... it is pure, unadulterated thanksgiving and praise to a holy God who designed me for His glory, and His alone.
People who want 'fun and exciting' will not seek me out. And that's okay. I was not created to meet that need. (Though the Lord uses those people to draw ME out, providing much-needed refreshment and encouragement.)
And the Lord has made it abundantly clear that it's because I am not drawn to the exciting and adventurous that I am home and available for those who need me.

I love ministering to young women, young adults, and my sisters in Christ.
I love the 'ministry of presence' - sitting beside a broken, hurting heart so it no longer feels alone.
I love seeing the "aha" moment when she realizes she was stuck, and finally sees freedom on the other side.
I love seeing repentance, change, maturity and growth.
I love seeing JOY return after the darkness has faded.

I will never be 'enough' for everyone, but I am enough for the Lord.
He chose to make me intense and personal and passionate about drawing out the hearts of others.
He did it!
Which means He wants ME to do something with it!
And so I shall.

There will never be a shortage of  broken brothers and suffering sisters.
I cannot help them all.
But I can try.
One by one as the Lord sets them before me.
I can try.
Because it's what He made me to do.

And when I obey, I feel His pleasure.

3.29.2015

Quote.

Lord, do Thou turn me all into love, and all my love into obedience, and let my obedience be without interruption.
                                    ~ Jeremy Taylor

3.20.2015

A quote - and a thought.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven!" Matthew 5:16

O soul, consider this deeply - it is the life of a Christian which carries more conviction and persuasion than his words. Though, like an angel, you talk of Christ, of the gospel, of the doctrines of grace, and of Heaven - yet, if you indulge devilish tempers, and live under the power of any sinful lusts and passions - you will hereby harden others against the things of God and prevent their setting out in the ways of God. Study and pray to be a consistent walker in the ways of holiness; else, all is but windy profession and airy talk.

O how much harm is done to Christ's cause - by the unholy walk of many professors!

"For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life!" 1 Thessalonians 4:7
                                                                             ~ John Bunyan
                                     ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This quote should make the heart quicken in the chest of every believer!

When we speak the truth of Scripture - and then continue in sin ... 
When we ask others to live out those same truths - and then continue in sin ... 
When we place expectations of holiness on others - and then willingly live in the flesh ...
we are hypocrites of the worst kind.

And who is always watching closely from the front row?
Our family.
Spouse - children - parents - siblings.
They observe every messy stitch hidden beneath the beautiful cloth we show to others.
And our testimony is destroyed.

This quote hit me hard.
Not because I expect others, or myself, to be perfect (it is unattainable this side of heaven), but because I know I am not perfectly SEEKING the way of holiness every single day.
I let too many distractions, desires, and emotions determine my day instead of throwing myself into the direction of holiness and letting the tide carry me in its power.

John Bunyan penned this thought. The same genius who authored The Pilgrim's Progress.
His thoughts convict me, and I pray I will secure the same conviction of Spirit he possessed as I continue to grow and mature in Christ.

Study and pray to be a consistent walker in the ways of holiness.
Lord! Show me how to do this!
Give me the DESIRE to do this!
Make me hate my sin more than I do so I can love my Savior more than I do.
And thank You. Thank You that You are a God of forgiveness, grace, and mercy.
I did not understand how valuable they were when I was young, but now I find myself wanting to live in them as I see myself more and more through YOUR eyes, rather than my own.
I can excuse and justify much. But all You see when You look at me is the precious blood of Your Son.
Make me see myself the same way.
Forgiven.
Redeemed.
Bought with a price.
Expected to love You, serve You, obey You, and praise You BECAUSE of Your love.
How much I have to learn, Lord.
Mold me and shape me into one of Your best students.
I am ready.
A little nervous, but I am ready.
Thank You, Lord. For everything.
May I be a woman who not only learns to walk in the ways of holiness - but becomes a marathon runner who never, ever veers off course.
Amen.

3.17.2015

Quote.

“Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart.
Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer."
                                                                 ~ J.C. Ryle A Call To Prayer

3.16.2015

Why I will never stop talking about my miscarriage.

Over the years I have been asked more than once, either sincerely or thoughtlessly, "Why do you still talk about it?" when I shared about my miscarriage, and our son, Matthew.

And each time I found myself without a simple, succinct, or Biblical answer.

Until now.

The next time I am asked, "Why do you still talk about your miscarriage?"
I will reply, "Because it's not about ME."

I am one of millions of women who have buried their babies.
And it will never end.

Women living in the darkness of miscarriage need someone who understands.
Someone who is willing to light a match that will dispel the darkness and prove she is not alone.
Someone who gets it.
Someone who identifies with their pain.
Their confusion.
Their sorrow.
Someone who may have a different story, but the same ending.
A pregnancy that is no more.
The death of a dream.

My miscarriage is not about ME.
It is just one small part of a greater whole.
A purpose known only by a holy, tender, compassionate God who allowed me to walk through a trial I never would have chosen on my own. Because He - had a plan.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. II Corinthians 1

I will NEVER stop talking.

I will never stop because there will always be a woman who needs to hear the struggles, pain, and depths of my heart ... because they match her own.

And hopefully, after she sees, and believes, that I truly understand her thoughts, emotion, and sorrow, she will trust me with her own heart.
And because she trusts me, she will let me lead her
to the Savior.

I may not have known the "why" when I had to bury my son, but I know it now.
And as long as I have breath I will be faithful to share my story over and over and over again, trusting the Lord to use it as He will.
Because He always does.

3.14.2015

Remembering the son I never knew ... and the God who has been faithful.

As the anniversary of my miscarriage drew near, the Lord kept pressing me to "remember."
This seems ridiculous in some ways, because a woman never forgets losing her baby.
But sometimes we only remember the parts that are sad, hurtful, or discouraging.
There is purpose in that, and grief has to be worked through like any emotion, but when the dark clouds have lifted and we are able to glimpse hope, it is time to remember the good.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon reading Matthew's journal.
It was interesting to see the range of emotion written on the pages.
One minute I am praising God and the next minute I am asking how I will ever recover and move forward.
One page reflects my joy that Matthew has only known heaven without any earthly sorrow while another page reveals my intense desire to hold him in my arms again.

The words that most captured my attention, however, were the ones asking the Lord what He was going to do with me. How was He going to use this for good?
I smiled when I read those lines because though I could not see it then, I can see clearly now.
He may still have plans for me that I am unaware of, but I know what He has called me to do now -and I must be obedient.

Forgive my indulgence, for I am going to record a few of my journal excerpts here.
For most it will seem odd.
But for the woman who has just lost her own baby through miscarriage or stillbirth, reading my thoughts will offer comfort and encouragement as she tries to process her own.
I know ... because I was that woman.

God has been faithful every day and every hour since Thursday, March 10, 2006 when my doctor looked at me and said, "I'm afraid you are miscarrying."
He sustained me through four long days of waiting, hoping, praying, and accepting before Matthew Isaac Eastman was delivered at 3:45 am on Monday, March 14th.

There have been times of extreme sadness and overwhelming emotion, and there have been moments of intense growth and understanding.
And through each one, the Lord has been there.
As He always has - and always will be.

Thank You, Lord, for putting me into the fire, and bringing me through it.
I would never have chosen it myself, but now I see how many ways I can praise You because of it!
Thank you.
                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
July 6, 2006 (four months after Matthew was delivered)
Matthew,
Do you even know who I am? Do you sit on the laps of men and angels and ask them to tell you about me? When we join you in heaven will you run to us? Grabbing our hands to drag us through the streets of gold to show us your favorite places?
I miss you.
I can see your little body. Your tiny face. Sometimes I want that day back ... so I can focus on every detail so I can record them in my mind to play over and over again. At times I feel like the memories are fading, starting to grow dim, and I do not want that to happen.
I have nothing tangible to hold on to. No cry or smile, wiggle or laugh. All was silent, except for the sobs of anguish of those in the room. But you, my son, were silent.
Your due date is coming soon.
Should I tell your daddy that I am dreading this day? Should I remind him that I am not okay? Should I remind anyone?
I spoke with another woman who lost a baby. It was so comforting to hear someone speak my own thoughts - to know she fully comprehends my emotions any my pain. She cried. I cried. And it was good.
It's so hard, Matthew, because I WANT to talk about that day. I want someone to ask me about it. Anyone. Some have. Some will. But not many. Death puts you in a very lonely, dark and quiet place because people don't know what to do with you.
Perhaps there is purpose to the loneliness. Perhaps there is a need for it. Perhaps the simple truth is that without it we cannot grow for we have no need to look UP.
Lord, help me in my need! I do not need to know WHY. I just need to know WHAT.
What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to learn? Teach? Use? There has to be something greater than me ... it has to go beyond that. You comfort us so we can comfort others. Who will I comfort, Lord? Who needs me?
Show me, Father, how the death of my son was not in vain.
Matthew, I love you.
August 9th is coming, and you are not.
Knowing you are in heaven, seeing the face of God ... it makes me feel okay.
But oh, how I miss you!
You are forever my son.
Mommy.

August 2006
(This is a note I recorded in my journal, written to friends asking for support as the due date approached. The Lord was working on me - teaching me to ask for help ... without feeling like a burden - and allowing my friends to love me when I needed to be loved. How else will they know, unless I tell them?)
I am writing to ask you to pray for me.
After Matthew died people warned me the due date would be a difficult hurdle. It seemed illogical as I thought, "Either way my son is gone - what would a date matter?"
But they were right.
I am overwhelmed with emotion, sadness and utter grief. I hear his name and I cry. I look at his memory box and I just want to scream until he is in my arms again. I miss him so much it aches.
I will confess to you, as Scripture commands, that for the past couple of weeks when someone has asked me how I am doing, I have lied. I say "I'm fine" just to avoid the emotion. To avoid breaking down in front of the person, not knowing if they actually want to hear my heart. I am a woman who has buried her son, and I am not okay with that.
I keep thinking of God's words to Abraham, "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?"
If nothing is too hard for Him, than lessening my hurt and my grief will be easy.
I have to believe that God's ways are not mine, and I need to trust.
And I will. I will do so in the midst of my tears.
That is okay, right?
"There is a time to weep and a time to laugh" and we are to "in everything give thanks" - so cannot both happen simultaneously? I pray so.
Thank you for loving me.
Michelle

September 2006
Matthew,
I think of you every day. But I find myself not feeling sad when I think of you.
I really do not know how to explain it. At times I feel guilty because I CAN go through a day without thinking of you. I can picture your face and not cry. I can remember holding you and not feel my heart break. Shouldn't I still be sad, I wonder? Shouldn't I still be emotional and hurting and feel a sense of emptiness? As soon as I start to feel BAD for feeling good - I have to stop.
Is this not exactly what I asked the Lord to do? Did I not ask for the pain to decrease? Does He not promise in His Word to heal the brokenhearted?
If all of this is true, then why am I surprised to have found healing in my own heart? To find strength and joy where there once was pain?
God did this, Matthew!
Praise be to Him!
I imagine my writings will grow more scarce as the Lord continues to heal and restore me, but know you are always in my thoughts and forever in my heart, my son. My Matthew.
I love you.
Mommy
                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you are working through the grief and loss of someone you love, I encourage you to write.
Even if it is simple scribbles on scratch paper, record your thoughts.
Not just to remember the details or the pain, but to see the way God works in the middle of it all.
We cannot always find the beauty in the ashes when they are falling down around us, but we can look back, and see the the finished product when hope and joy have been restored.

3.13.2015

It is important to remember. Even when it hurts.

Some memories are sweet.
Others are sorrowful.
How easy it is to bask in the sweet ... and quickly run from the sorrow.

And yet, Scripture asks us to REMEMBER.
Not the details, the hurt, or the pain ... but the work of the Lord in the midst of each.

Because good or bad, He allows every one.

I know, O Lord, that Your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Psalm 119:75

As tomorrow draws near ... the 9th anniversary of the loss of our son Matthew ...

I will remember.

I will remember who God is, how He worked in those dark and dreary days before and after the miscarriage, and how He has used Matthew's life for His glory and for the comfort of other women who suffer the same loss.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar. Psalm 42:6

When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to You,
into Your holy temple. Jonah 2:7

Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually.
Remember the wondrous works that He has done,
His miracles and the judgments He uttered. I Chronicles 16:11,12

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your wonders of old. Psalm 77:11

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is His work,
and His righteousness endures forever.
He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful. Psalm 111:1-4

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that You have done;
I ponder the work of Your hands.
I stretch out my hands to You;
my soul thirsts for You like a parched land. Psalm 143:5

Quote.

                        What keeps most of us from God is not the sin we KNOW we have,
but the righteousness we THINK we have.

                                                                                       ~ Nate Larkin

3.11.2015

Quotes ~ on Affliction.

Affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground! Job 5:6 

"Affliction does not rise out of the dust or come to men by chance; but it is the Lord who sends it, and we should own and reverence His hand in it!" (Thomas Boston)

"Those who dive into the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls!" (Charles Spurgeon)

"The furnace of affliction is a good place for you, Christian; it benefits you; it helps you to become more like Christ, and it is fitting you for Heaven!" (Charles Spurgeon)

"Most of the grand truths of God have to be learned by trouble; they must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction, otherwise we shall not truly receive them." (Charles Spurgeon)

"The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction." (Charles Spurgeon)

"There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles--they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all." (Charles Spurgeon)

"Afflictions tend to wean us from the world - and to fix our affections on things above." (John Angell James)

"Poverty and affliction take away the fuel that feeds pride!" (Richard Sibbes)

"The winter prepares the earth for the spring; so do sanctified afflictions prepare the soul for glory." (Richard Sibbes)

"When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord's choicest wines." (Samuel Rutherford)

"Afflictions add to the saint's glory. The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles; the heavier the saint's cross is, the heavier will be their crown." (Thomas Watson)

3.04.2015

Do I recognize my need?

At our last Mom's Night of Encouragement and Prayer we worked our way through our theme song - "I Need Thee Every Hour."
Line by line.
Word by word.
Circling, high-lighting, and underlining the words or phrases that jumped out at us, whether they were encouraging, challenging, or downright convicting.

After a quiet time of reflection, we shared our thoughts with each other and then prayed through each verse, asking the Lord to make our need for Him very clear.

I was a bit surprised by the amount of words and phrases that blazed on the page as I read through this beloved hymn.
And now my hope is that the Lord will burn these things into my heart so I might become a woman who relies so heavily on Him that no one can tell where I end, and He begins!

I trust the Lord will use these notes/thoughts/convictions to encourage another brother or sister in the Lord.
We all need our Savior.
The question is ...
do we SEEK Him?

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

I Need Thee Every Hour

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.

A need does not = want. Need implies: I cannot survive without it!
Gracious Lord ... grace upon grace ... "My grace is SUFFICIENT for you."
Lord ... all authority and power are HIS. King of kings and LORD of lords!
Tender voice ... The Lord speaks in a still, small voice ... so we must be quiet - and LISTEN!
Come ... ACTION. Purposeful. Willing. It does not 'just happen.'
To Thee ... not seeking others - running only after HIM.

I need Thee every hour; stay Thou nearby;
temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee. 

Stay ... abiding PRESENCE ... "I will never leave you or forsake you."
Temptations ... constant ... unrelenting ... the enemy seeks to DEVOUR me ... every.single.day.
Lose their power ... He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. I Peter 2:24
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Cor 15:57

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
come quickly and abide, or life is vain.
I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee. 

The first line sounds like an invitation - willingly asking the Lord to join every aspect of my life.
Both the highs and the lows in life should be dependent on Christ. 
We cannot neglect Him in the highs.
We must cling to Him in the valleys - and PRAISE HIM on the mountaintops!

Life is vain ... "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"
Without Christ, everything is futile and purposeless.

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
and Thy rich promises in me fulfill.
I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee. 

Thy will ... which almost never matches my own! "The heart of man plans his ways but the Lord directs his steps." 
Do I believe in the sovereignty of God or not?!?
His ways are not my ways - His thoughts are not my thoughts.
"Who can know the mind of the Lord?"
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done.

Promises ... God cannot lie! He does what He says He will do!
His mercies are new every morning - great is His faithfulness!

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, thou blessed Son.
I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.

Holy One ... "Be ye holy as I am holy."
Make me Thine ... I BELONG to the King!
I am HIS vessel, not my own. Therefore - I am to live only for HIM - not for myself.

And the final question that has been dominating my thoughts for the last week:
Do I recognize and fully comprehend my utter, complete, and all-consuming NEED of the Savior?!?

Oh, Lord - make it so!

Quote.


Worldliness ...
is whatever makes sin look normal 
and righteousness look strange.

                                                              ~ Kevin DeYoung