3.29.2017

Never again.

While He (Jesus) was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9

This was our text Sunday morning in church.
And the sermon was one of the most encouraging messages I have heard in a long time as it pertains to my own heart and a specific struggle I have been battling for some time.
(I will share my notes first and then tie them together with the personal piece.)

                   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Notes:
(The events of the text are taking place shortly before Jesus is arrested and sentenced to death.)

While many sought to kill Jesus, there were many who were devoted to Him and loved Him.
We see an incredible example of this love and devotion through the act of one woman.
"...there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head."
٭ Her devotion is UNINHIBITED.
٭ She broke social boundaries to worship Jesus.
٭ She ignored the criticism of those who did not approve of her public display of love.
Self Reflection:  Is my devotion to the Lord uninhibited? Am I deeply in love with Jesus? Do I allow nothing and no one to keep me from serving, loving, and worshiping Him?

The woman did not POUR the perfume over Jesus. She SMASHED the vial and used all of it on her Savior. "... she broke the vial and poured it over His head."
People hated Him.
She LOVED Him.

When we are called to sacrifice to serve the Lord - we must give EVERYTHING to obey.
"Is it worth it?" is the wrong question.
IS HE WORTHY?

➛ The disciples criticized the woman for her action. It was a personal and public rebuke.
"But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her.
٭ They saw waste - not worship.
Application: When you set out to serve the Lord, be ready to be told you are "over the top."
The irony: Jesus rebukes THEM - and praises HER.
"But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

٭ What the world deemed wasteful and embarrassing (her public display of affection), Jesus measured as love. "She has done a good deed to Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial."
And He recorded her act of love in the pages of Scripture, to be read and remembered forever.

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am often criticized for being "too passionate," "too intense," "too spiritual."
"Why do you always have to talk about the Lord? Can't you just talk about normal things?"
"Do you have to answer everything with Scripture?"
"You should calm down about orphan care. Your intensity offends people who are not called to this ministry."
"Don't you think pulling people on your lap or kneeling in front of them to hold their hand when they are hurting is a little dramatic?"

A few months ago I begged the Lord to show me a verse to support my passion for ministry because if I can't support what I am doing with Scripture, I have no business doing it!
He did not answer the prayer immediately, but when He did answer, the timing was perfect. (As His timing always is.)
This is where He led me. Romans 12:11
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
The NLT reads: Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this!

While this verse looped through my brain, the Lord had me in a Sunday school class studying the life of Paul, focusing on his conversion and his calling.
Tim would ask, "Brethren! Do you know your calling?"
And praise the Lord, at 45 years old, I could answer, "YES! I know my calling! It is to love and serve my husband and children, and minister to the brokenhearted." 
The Lord's purpose for my life has never been more clear and I LOVE what He has called me to do!

And yet - unlike the woman who ignored the criticism of those who were uncomfortable with her passion and her demonstrative displays, I listened. And I was discouraged. And confused. How can serving the Lord with passion be a bad thing?

And then came Sunday.
As my pastor expounded on the uninhibited, unashamed, and unapologetic heart of the woman who smashed the vial of perfume over the head of her Savior, I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment as the Lord soothed my heart and said, "Never again, daughter. Never apologize for loving Me, for serving Me, or for obeying Me. Like the woman who gave me everything she could, I want you to give me the same. ALL of you. With as much passion as you possess. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. Just give Me YOU."

And all I could say, 
all I wanted to say, 
was, "Yes, Lord."

3.28.2017

One of my top 10 favorite quotes.

Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.
- A. W. Tozer

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
who seek Him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in His ways!
You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping Your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all Your commandments.
I will praise You with an upright heart,
when I learn Your righteous rules.
I will keep Your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!
Psalm 119:1-8

3.26.2017

I LOVE them!


 I dreamt of being a mom since the time I was a little girl.
17 years have passed since I held my firstborn son in my arms, and I am continually amazed by the feeling of love the Lord pours into my heart for each one of my children.
Caring for babies and toddlers is natural and easy for me, and I love it.
During that season of motherhood, when everyone was little and totally dependent on me, I sometimes wondered what life would be like when they were independent and grown. 
And now, I know. It is WONDERFUL!

I think my favorite thing about being a mom to teens is that I am no longer just their mother,
but their friend.
We talk, we laugh, they make fun of my iTunes playlist, we watch good movies and discuss them, we debate theological issues, we argue, we disagree, we forgive, they share their struggles and their fears, we talk about the future ...
and they hug me or kiss me on the cheek and tell me they love me - every single day.

As their friend and sister in Christ, I look forward to years of conversations and interaction as they mature and grow and become husbands and fathers, serving the Lord wherever He calls them.
As their mother, I pray they will seek the Lord first, all the days of their lives, and walk in faithful obedience as they serve Him and love others.

I love you, Micah, Luke, and Caleb. ❤
You bring me joy and I will forever praise the Lord for three such amazing gifts.

3.24.2017

Quote.

This generation has forgotten that the Gospel message
does not clean up and shine the outside of a person, 
rather it bores into the very heart and soul of a person 
and radically changes that person from the inside forever.
- A.W. Tozer

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. II Corinthians 5:17

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

Quote.

The man after God's own heart must be dead to the opinion of his friends
as well as his enemies. 
- A. W. Tozer

The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
Proverbs 29:25

3.23.2017

Serving the brokenhearted is not about our comfort. It's about their need.

And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. Job 2:13

The Ministry of Presence is powerful.

The amount of broken, overwhelmed, hurting, suffering people in this world - and in our very small personal circle of that world - is not a small number.

A sick parent.
A dying spouse.
A friend who is saying goodbye to her newborn child.
A couple in the middle of a divorce.
A parent weeping over a teenager that ran away.
A daughter hooked up to tubes in a hospital room.
A diagnosis of an incurable, debilitating disease.
A job lost.
A career ended.
A friend found after an overdose.
A spouse left shocked and devastated after news of an affair.
A barren womb.

Suffering is real.
Pain exists.
Sorrow overwhelms.
And often, those experiencing these realities do not need us to make them feel better.
They don't need us to fill the awkward silence.
They don't want to hear empty promises.
They don't want to be told how they should feel.
They just want us.

Scripture says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." Romans 12:15
Notice, there is not one word in this verses that requires conversation.
When we find ourselves staring into the face of a grieving, devastated, suffering person - it is not about our comfort.
We are not there for us - we are there to minister to the one whose heart is broken.
And sometimes, the best way to love them in their darkest hour ... is in silence.

For all of the foolishness, poor doctrine, and incorrect perceptions of God bound up in the hearts and minds of Job's friends, this one thing they did RIGHT!
And they (the friends) sat with him (Job) on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. Job 2:13
Such wisdom! Such compassion.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us there is a time for everything, including, "... a time to keep silence, and a time to speak." 
We may not know the time for silence or for words, but there is someone who does. And He promises to give us godly wisdom if we ask. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
There IS a time for everything.
There is a time to speak, pray, and repeat the truths of God's Word to a wounded, weary, and weeping brother or sister. They need support, love, compassion, understanding, and kindness to keep them from drowning in their tears.
But often, when the pain hurts the most, they just need - us.

May we emulate Job's friends and "sit with" our brothers and sisters willingly, patiently, and quietly - until they break the silence. And then, ask the Lord to fill us with the perfect words, Scriptures, and emotion to meet the need of the moment.
Jesus is a "man of sorrows," so there is no one better to teach us how to minister to those who weep than the One who understands their pain best.

Thank You, Father, for this verse in Job. A book filled with tragedy and suffering, and a book that begins and ends with Job PRAISING You when You give - and when You take away.
May we follow his example when trials are our own, and may we minister to others the same way his friends did, in sympathetic silence, until You open our mouths to speak what You want us to say. 
You have such compassion toward us, and You desire that we would offer the same to the brethren. Let us SEE the hurting hearts that surround us every day, Lord, so we may RESPOND, and bring each one to the only place they will find true healing and be fully restored ... the feet of Jesus Christ.
Teach us to see as You see, and fill us with a love like Yours so we are never able to walk away from another hurting heart. 

3.21.2017

An impromptu Photo Shoot.

An hour of daylight left + drizzling rain + a beautiful college campus =
Photo Shoot Fun!

Every time Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie passed a sculpture, a fountain, or a piece of architecture, they would yell, "Mom! Take a photo of us HERE!"
I followed them around, acting as their personal photographer while witnessing their enthusiasm. 
Such energy my children have! If only I could bottle it and sell it!

We enjoyed a lovely evening together, and on our way home they all said, 
"We need to come back here with Dad and the big boys and do this again!"
Sounds like a plan to me! I had a great time with you. ❤






3.19.2017

Celebrating FRIENDSHIP!


One Year TOGETHER!

I met Julie right before they got the call from the social worker asking if they were willing to take in twins. I believe they said "Yes!" without even thinking! Their hearts were ready, they were fully surrendered to foster care and adoption, and denying two babies who desperately needed care 
was not an option.
I remember holding Henry and Grace for the first time. Two teeny tiny babies, one in each arm.
It was sitting in their living room staring into the faces of those sweet babies that the Lord squeezed my heart and said, "Daughter, there are more babies like these. I know there are many things you want to do, but caring for orphans is what I want you to do."
I had no idea how He was going to make that happen, but He knew!
And here we are, five years later ...
caring for these very same children and their little brother who the Guskes took in two years ago,
and serving eleven families in our church who are "visiting orphans in their distress."
I LOVE how the Lord works!

We have been friends for a while now, but this past year changed everything.
Connecting with people through activities, meals, and conversations is a good thing, but when we weep together, serve each other, pray for one another, and walk through the incredibly difficult parts of life that we become bonded to each other.
It is wonderful, it is beautiful, and it is precious.
Just as God intended.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10

Lord, thank You for the beauty of friendship, and thank You for the opportunity You gave our family to minister to the Guskes when they needed it most. Your timing is always perfect, and Your purposes are always fulfilled. We know You are not finished with any of us yet, so we look forward to what You have planned for the year to come, and every year after. Protect these children, Lord, continue to provide for this family, and may they draw closer to You every day as they serve, love, and enjoy one another - even on the most difficult days. You chose them for each other! And they are BEAUTIFUL!


3.17.2017

This and that.


The highlight of our week ... our new 10 passenger van!
We prayed for this vehicle one year ago, asking the Lord to provide a way for us to have more space for our ever-increasing-in-physical-stature family, and to use the extra seats for foster children, orphans, or anyone else who needs care.
On Tuesday, March 14, He answered that prayer!
And, He chose to use my incredibly generous step-dad to bless us with this wonderful gift.
Not only are we excited to use it and enjoy it as a family, we can't wait to see how the Lord uses it to serve others and use it for Kingdom work.
❤ Thank you, Bill! We will forever appreciate your kindness toward our family. ❤

March 14 was also the anniversary of the day our son Matthew was delivered.
I woke up to seven bouquets of flowers lovingly selected by Dennis, each one representing our seven children ... the six we enjoy every day, and the son who has never known anything but the splendors of heaven.
While the pain and sadness of that day no longer overwhelm me, I am thankful my husband honors the life of our son.
Just because the world does not get to meet the babies lost in miscarriage and stillbirth does not mean their lives were not significant, did not make an impact, or should be forgotten. Every life is precious because every life is created by the hand of an amazing God who chooses the number of our days. Whether that life lives 99 years, 18 months, one day, or ten weeks in utero - it matters. The value of life cannot be measured by human standards. Known by millions, or known by two ... each person makes a difference. Especially to those who love them.
If you know someone who has lost a child through miscarriage, sickness, death - acknowledge that life. A card, a text, a flower, or a date for coffee will encourage the heart of the parent(s) more than you can imagine. Why? Because someone remembered their child was real - wanted - valuable - and precious.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Psalm 139

~~~ Ironically, the night before Matthew's due date, I was fretting over the lives of the ducklings in our incubator. Seven are gone, five remain.
The candling is not clear like it was last time, the shells are different, I cannot distinguish a healthy embryo from a deceased embryo so I don't know which to remove before they explode (blech), and will be bummed if none of them hatch.
I searched the internet for help, but to no avail. Like anything, the responses are divided. "Give the eggs more time just in case they are fine," or "Get rid of it immediately before it explodes and infects the other eggs!" So frustrating.
Finally, after an hour of research, I climbed in bed and said, "Lord, You created these eggs, so their lives are up to You! Please spare three of them for Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie. But if You don't it's okay. I have to let it go and trust You with Your own creation."
So now, we wait. And within the next ten days, we will know His plan!

When you ask your teenage son, who weight lifts seven days a week, to do an activity with his younger siblings ... this is what you get!
He made them run up and down the block to warm up first, set up a circuit, and pushed them through it for 45 minutes.
And - they loved it!
My idea of 'activity' looks like tossing a ball, playing Monopoly, or taking a leisurely walk.
Luke's version? PAIN. Go figure.

~~~ Tommorrow we have an Orphan Care event! It's Parent Night.
A group of us (I have some wonderful volunteers!) take care of 32 children while the parents enjoy three hours of fellowship to talk, share struggles, encourage one another, and support one another through the highs and lows of the fost/adopt world.
Their lives, their families, their daily routines, and their struggles are unique, and they need time to engage with those who "get it."
It is such a blessing and a joy to watch these families love and serve one another.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 
I Thessalonians 5:11

~~~ Happy Friday, everyone!
Enjoy your weekend, and remember that there is no better place to bring your hopes, your fears, your struggles, and your pain than to the feet of Jesus. You don't need to get 'cleaned up' for Him. You just need to COME. As you are. And let Him take care of the rest.

3.16.2017

Choose to remember - and give PRAISE.

Discouragement.
Disappointment.
Frustration.
Hurtful words and bad attitudes.
Selfishness.
Too much pride to say, "I'm sorry."
Failure.
Sin chosen over obedience in the split second when the choice is available.
Some days are just plain HARD.

David cried out in dramatic despair to the Lord, woefully recounting his sorrows for the first half of Psalm 77 - until - he chooses to remember who His God is and spends the rest of the chapter praising the Lord.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will ponder all Your work,
and meditate on Your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
Psalm 77
And we must do the same.

On difficult days like today, when I feel like I can do nothing right and see more failure than obedience, I need Scriptures like these to push away the gloom and despair that blinds me so my gaze can once again be fixed on the author and perfecter of my faith, and the lover of my soul.

I pray the words of Scripture will encourage you as you reflect on how amazing and wonderful He is.
Even on the worst of days.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! 
How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been His counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to Him
that He might be repaid?”
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. 
To Him be glory forever. 
Amen.
Romans 11:33-36

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20, 21

To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. I Timothy 1:17

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 24, 25

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! …To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! Revelation 5:12, 13

Thank You, Lord, for the beauty of Scripture. Thank You for the words, phrases, and images You use to help us understand who You are, and remind us that You are a God of power and glory who deserves unending praise and adoration. It is easy to forget Your grandeur when we set our eyes on our circumstances and put our hope in humans who are as weak and frail as we are, expecting them to meet our needs and offer us the joy and contentment only You can give. Forgive me, Lord, when I cease to praise You, and please, grab my chin and turn my head in the right direction so I can see You, fix my eyes on You - and be at peace. I love You, Lord, but I want to love You more. Teach me, I pray.

3.14.2017

EXCELLENT quote.

How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need,
yet closes his heart against him, 
how does God's love abide in him? 
Little children, let us not love in word or talk 
but in deed and in truth. 
I John 3:17-18

Remembering our son, Matthew.

When I held our son Matthew after he was delivered eleven years ago, his entire body fit inside my hand. He weighed only fourteen ounces and measured about eight inches long. So tiny, so fragile - and so silent.
Babies are supposed to cry when they are born. They are supposed to wiggle and squirm until they are quieted by the soft voice and life-giving source of their mother. But when a baby is delivered without breath, without life ... there is no sound. There is just silence.
Soon, however, the air fills with the hushed voices of the nurses as they do what must be done, the tender words of a husband seeking to console his grieving wife, and the sobs of the mother who weeps for her baby that is no more.

The pain and sorrow of the day Matthew was delivered have long since passed, but the memories have not.
Gentle nurses.
Praying friends.
Visitors ministering to my aching heart.
A sister who would not leave my bedside.
A faithful friend who wiped away every tear, including her own.
A husband who felt helpless and scared, but bravely and tenderly served and loved me every moment we were in that room.
And a God who kept His promise never to leave me or forsake me, for I felt His presence every hour.

The overwhelming ache of death and loss have gone away, but the memories remain.
And I pray they always will.

Every time I sit on my couch with a woman who has suffered a miscarriage or a stillbirth ...
Every time I respond to an e-mail from a woman reaching out for encouragement and support after her own loss ...
Every time someone asks me how to minister to a woman who has lost a baby ...
I want to REMEMBER the pain - the sorrow - the agony - and the grief.
If I don't remember, I cannot join her in her pain, and that is exactly what I want to do.
Anyone can listen. Anyone can pray. Anyone can give a hug. Anyone can cry.
But only those who have walked the same path of suffering understand. And understanding is exactly what these women seek in the darkness of their despair.

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. 
For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort tooII Corinthians 1:3-5

I had no idea when I sat on that hospital bed over a decade ago that I would be part of a miscarriage ministry that reaches hundreds of women. I had no idea I would meet women from all over the world who cry in the middle of the night in the safety of their closet ... fear they will never have another child ... feel like no one understands what they are feeling or thinking, or wants to ... are afraid to tell anyone what they are really thinking ... wonder if anyone will remember a baby they have never met ... are shocked when someone asks, "Why are you still crying about this?"... and hate Mother's Day. Just like I did.
What I did know, without the tiniest bit of doubt, was that losing Matthew was not about me. Millions of women before me had buried babies, and millions after me would do the same. "This has to be bigger than me, Lord! It HAS to be bigger than me!" I repeated those words over and over in the darkness of my hospital room.
Before He could use me to comfort others, however, He had to comfort my own heart first. And He did so faithfully, with compassion and grace, until I was able to use my own sorrow to serve other women who found themselves weeping through the night for the babies they would never know.

How grateful I am to belong to a God who always fulfills His promises, and meets us where we are. Especially in our deepest grief.

Let Your steadfast love comfort me according to Your promise to Your servant. Psalm 119:76

This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:50

But praise Him! He doesn't leave us there!

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23

Thank You, Lord, for the dark valleys, because without them we would never appreciate the splendor and beauty of the mountaintop view. You are a God who gives and takes away, and while we may never understand the "why" we can know the Who, and choose to give thanks in everything because it is Your will. For Your glory - and for our good. Thank You for the gift of our son, Matthew Isaac Eastman. He was our precious son when he was in my womb, he was our precious son when we held him in our arms for those few hours, and he is our precious son still because he was created by Your hand, for Your purpose, and for the days You appointed. I have never been the same since the day I delivered Him, Lord. Thank You. You used his brief life to change us, and I know You are not finished with us yet. Matthew's life was not in vain - and for this truth, I am forever grateful. You are a good God whether You give or take away, and sometimes we see You best when You take away. Thank You for being an ever-constant, ever-faithful God. I love You. 

3.11.2017

Excellent quote. Trials.

"Cast your burden upon the Lord - and He will sustain you." Psalm 55:22

The promise is not that the Lord will remove the load we cast upon Him, nor that He will carry it for us - but that He will sustain us so that we may carry it.
He does not free us from the duty - but He strengthens us for it.
He does not deliver us from the conflict - but He enables us to overcome.
He does not withhold or withdraw the trial from us - but He helps us in trials to be submissive and victorious, and makes it a blessing to us.
He does not mitigate the hardness or severity of our circumstances, taking away the difficult elements, removing the thorns, making life easy for us - but He puts Divine grace into our hearts so that we can live sweetly in all the hard, adverse circumstances.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" Philippians 4:13


- J.R. Miller

3.10.2017

This and that.

It's Friday!
The whole weekend lies ahead of us ... a time to refresh and recharge.
The older I get the more I understand why God commanded His people to REST.
It is necessary and good - for the mind, body, and soul.
So for the next two days, I will enjoy this command to the fullest and rejoice that God encourages stillness and rest.

We have a tradition in our family.
When a boy turns 13, he gets to spend a weekend away with Dennis to kick off his "Man in Training."
The boy gets to choose the where and the what, and then enjoy the time alone with Dennis. Caleb chose the beach!
They spent the weekend in San Clemente enjoying the surf, sand, a hotel, and various activities during their days together.
Caleb LOVED it.
In a large family, it is difficult to secure "alone time" with anyone, so this weekend is cherished by our sons, and Dennis willingly throws himself into the tradition.
I am confident it will be a favorite memory for him and the boys in years to come!

We were reunited with our G3 this week! Sickness kept us apart for three weeks, but we made up for it on Monday. ;o)
What do we do? We PLAY!
Everyone was in a mellow mood, so we decided to stay home instead of heading out on an adventure.
Scooters, soccer balls, blocks, swords ... all things FUN!
It was a good day. For all of us.
(Don't let Grace's face fool you. She was laughing hysterically before the click of the camera!)

~~~ After candling our duck eggs, we were sad to find that we lost five during phase one.
We had such troubles with the incubator the first 48 hours (temperature would not adjust, a hole in the water trough preventing correct humidity, etc), I wasn't sure any of the eggs would survive. I am thankful we still have seven, and pray the Lord will allow at least three of them to hatch so each of the kids has his/her own duck to love.
Only 17 days until we (should) hear the chirping of baby ducklings!

There are many reasons I love homeschooling and am thankful the Lord allows us to do so freely in America.
One of those reasons is discovering my children out in nature working on their lessons on a gorgeous, sunny, breeze-filled day!
I LOVE nature and the diversity and beauty of the outdoors, but I am not naturally drawn outside to enjoy it. I have to be intentional about getting outside - letting the sun soak into my skin - feeling the wind on my face. But my children? They need no urging.
They eat breakfast outside, play games, do school work, take naps, and anything that else comes to mind.
How thankful I am they so willingly partake of God's creation!

~~~ I have now been in a discipleship relationship for two months with a wise, gentle, godly, Titus 2 woman, and WOW! It is amazing how much can be accomplished with purposeful and intentional conversation, questions, study, Scripture, and prayer.
We meet once a month. Our first time together was wonderful and stirred me up to begin a journey that needs to be taken. I left her feeling excited, prepared, and eager to see what the Lord has prepared for me.
She gives me daily/weekly assignments, and through those the Lord stretches and challenges me in areas that have long been ignored. It's fanTAStic!
Last night I eagerly drove to her house for our second meeting, knowing the Lord was going to do another mighty work. What I didn't know, however, was His plan to reveal something I didn't know about myself - and it was going to be BIG.
We were in deep, intense discussion, deconstructing what we were studying when I looked up with wide eyes and declared, "Friend! It's not that! It's THIS!" My mind was racing, dozens of images and conversations were flooding my memory, and I just started talking through it as the thoughts presented themselves.
My sister was leaning in close to me, hanging on every word, and responding as if watching all of it play out like a movie on a screen. (This is where the Lord allowed comic relief, and we both laughed at the craziness of the moment.)
I've had the privilege of witnessing others unravel a mental puzzle before my eyes and find it fascinating ("Aha!" moments), but I have not experienced one so intense in my own mind. It was just as fascinating - and - hard to keep up with!
When I exhausted my words, we discussed an action plan and then it was time to pray.
She looked at me and said, "After that kind of revelation, we need to pray on our knees. This is too big to pray over sitting upright!" So, down we went.
Friends, when the Lord shines a floodlight on your sin and reveals truth about you that needs to be seen, there is no hiding. Especially in prayer. As soon as I uttered the word, "Lord," I was undone. Praying while weeping is a heart-wrenching and soul-cleansing experience, and it was the best thing that has happened to me in a very, very long time.
Thank You, Lord, that You are always at work in the hearts of Your children, and when they willingly bend their knee, You respond as a tender Shepherd - carefully and gently holding them close until the weeping stops and hope shines brightly once again. I had no idea what You had planned for me last night, but YOU did ... and I am thankful.

~~~ Happy Friday, everyone!
May you be given opportunities to show kindness, grace, long-suffering, and love to those around you - and may you feel refreshed and ready to dive into a new week with ZEAL after spending time in the Word, in prayer, and with other believers who make you want to know and love God MORE.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1

3.09.2017

Quote.

The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried 
is the character of a man.
This is true.
What a man is survives him.
It can never be buried.
- J. R. Miller

May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for You. Psalm 25:21

3.07.2017

Reputation and Character are not the same!

Isn't it interesting how the Lord often presents His case to His children through a myriad of ways? Sometimes a verse is enough. A sermon. An article. Other times He uses a verse, a sermon, an article, a book, a hymn, a friend, and prayer to get His point across. Almost as if He is screaming, "Daughter! I want you to hear this! So in case you missed it the first six times, I am going to offer a seventh to make sure you do not miss what I am teaching you." Sigh.
Some aspects of the Christian life are so easy to grasp and implement while other aspects require constant repetition before my mind comprehends them, and implementation seems to take a lifetime. But God is always faithful, and He never gives up on me! No matter how inept, foolish, or dense I appear at the moment, He continues to show patience while gently pulling me back to Himself time and again to tip my chin up, look into my eyes, and say, "I have something to teach you, Michelle, and I want you to listen, and learn. It may take a while, but that's okay! I'm not going anywhere." (How good it is to have such a faithful Father caring for us!)

In the fall, the Lord started a work in my heart that was quite difficult. We cannot have growth without growing pains, so it was no surprise that it was such a hard process, but I still balked under the intensity of the lesson. To sum up, He had me wrestling through this verse: For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Because He is gracious, He used a wise, godly woman to encourage me with these words:
Obedience to the Lord is the measure of success, not the response of others. (see full post here) 

I was listening. Learning. Changing.
But I was also stuck.
Though comments and criticisms were not throwing me completely off balance any longer (I kept my thoughts in a loop, "Obey the, Lord, Michelle. No one's opinion matters but His!" "Obey the, Lord, Michelle. No one's opinion matters but His!"), I still wanted to defend myself. I was frustrated that I was being judged according to the thoughts and opinions and convictions of others without the chance to explain my personal motives. Surely, if they knew the who/what/when/where/why/how of my heart, they would understand. Right?

I was praying like crazy, begging the Lord to resolve this issue, because I was tired of it and wanted to be judged according to truth, not assumptions.
And He answered those prayers! Using a quote from a college basketball coach.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” - John Wooden

Every motive, every thought, every intention, every action, every word spoken ... all are laid bare before the Lord. He knows my heart. I might think I know it, but Scripture says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9 
If I cannot know my own heart, because it deceives even me, how in the world can I expect others to know and understand it?
I am asking people to do something that is impossible. The most determined, intentional, faithful, caring person would not have success after purposefully plumbing the depths of my heart to discover what lies within it because it simply cannot be done. 
We can discover much about each other and understand quite a bit about one another's character, convictions, passions, and desires, but there is only One who can see inside every secret place of the heart, interpret it correctly, and understand its intentions.

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. Jeremiah 17:10

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Heb 4:12,13

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. I Chronicles 28:9

If I am in Scripture and prayer daily, continually asking the Lord to "create in me a clean heart" and "search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there be any hurtful way in me," then I can stand confidently before Him knowing that He does see my heart, and no detail escapes His notice.
There is something freeing and wonderful in the knowledge that others will never truly know or understand the motives and intentions of my heart - because they can't. It is not personal. It's not because they refuse to understand. It is simply, impossible.
But the Lord DOES know the motives and intentions of my heart.
And since I am commanded to please God rather than men, I have to put all of my focus on Him, trusting Him to take care of my reputation whether people give me the benefit of the doubt or assume the best about me or not. (Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:7)

This has been an incredibly difficult lesson to learn and apply, but by God's grace I am making progress and seeing evidence of a transformed mind by taking every thought captive that is not truth, and not of Him.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
Character is what GOD sees.
Reputation is what MAN sees.

How thankful I am to belong to a God who sees me as I am ... and loves me with an everlasting love.

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, 
but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Quote.

A verse of Scripture in the morning may become a blessing for all the day.
It may sing in the heart as a sweet song, from morning until evening.
It may become a liturgy of prayer in which the soul shall voice its deepest needs and hungers - amid toils, struggles, and cares.
It may be a guide through perplexing tangles, God's voice whispering cheer, a comforter breathing peace in sorrow.
- J. R. Miller

3.06.2017

Encouragement - and a challenge - from a godly man.

J. R. Miller is one of my favorite authors.
I am thankful for men and women long ago who had the foresight to record sermons and protect manuscripts so future generations could benefit from the godly wisdom, insight, and passion that spurred men like J. R. Miller to seek hard after God day by day.
Their testimonies inspire me, challenge me, convict me, and push me to seek God the same way - with intention and passion.

I stumbled across one of his written gems and wanted to share it here.
I pray it will encourage you as much as it encouraged me!

                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Losing SELF in Christ" by J. R. Miller, 1903 (adaptions mine)

If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. Luke 9:23-24

The Christian's first duty—is to honor his Master. He must be willing to sink himself out of sight—in order that the name of Christ may be magnified. It is not possible to both honor Christ—and yet to honor ourselves before men. We must decrease—that Christ may increase. We must be willing to fall into the shadow—that the full light may be cast upon Christ's lovely face. We must be ready to suffer loss—that the cause of Christ may be advanced.

Yet only as we learn to die to self, do we become like Christ. Unrenewed nature seeks all for self—and none for Christ. Becoming a Christian is the taking of Christ into the life—in the place of self. Then all is changed. Life has a new center, a new aim. Christ comes first. His plan for our lives is accepted, instead of our own. It is no more what we would like to do—but "What does the Master want us to do?" It is no longer the pressing of our own will—but "May Your will, not mine, be done." This is the foundation of all Christian living—the dying of self—and the growing of Christ in the heart. So long as there remains any self-will, any unsubmission, any spirit of disobedience, any unconquered self, asserting its authority against the will of Christ—just so long, is our consecration incomplete.

The greatest thing possible in any life—is to have the divine plan for it fulfilled—even though it thwarts every human hope and dashes away every earthly dream. It is not easy for us to learn the lesson—that God's ways are always better for us than our own. We make our little plans and begin to carry them out. We think we have all things arranged for our greatest happiness and our best good. Then God's plan breaks in upon ours—and we look down through our tears upon the shattered fragments of our fine plans. It seems wreck, loss, and disaster. But no—it is only God's larger, wiser, better plan—displacing our little, imperfect, shortsighted one.

This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ—is the only way to true usefulness. Not until self has been renounced, is anyone ready for true Christian service.
While we are thinking how this or that will affect us, whether it will pay us to make this sacrifice or that self-denial; while we are consulting our own ease, our own comfort, our own interest or advantage in any form—we have not yet learned fully what the love of Christ means.

This projecting of SELF into our serving our fellow-men mars the service and hinders its effectiveness. We wonder if the person is 'worthy'—and if he is not, we do not want to waste our love upon him. We resent with impatience, the lack of gratitude in those we aid. We decline to serve others, because they are beneath us. That is, we put all our life on a commercial basis, and unless it seems to promise well for us in the way of outcome, we are not ready for it.
We need to learn the true meaning of Christ's love, for He never asks whether we are worthy or not, nor does He keep account of the number of times He has forgiven us. The law of love, which is the one law of all Christian life, does not follow the world's maxims. It asks not if there will be a return. It does not keep account of treatment received—and strike a balance for the governance of its future actions. It gives and serves and helps regardless of what it has received or may receive.

This law of the dying of self and the magnifying of Christ—is the secret of Christian peace. When Christ is small—and SELF is large—life cannot be deeply restful. Everything annoys us. We grow impatient of whatever breaks our comfort. We grieve over little trials. We find causes for discontent in merest trifles. We resent whatever would hinder or oppose us.

There is no blue sky in the picture, of which SELF is the center. There are no stars shining overhead. It begins and ends in a little patch of dusty floor, with gray walls surrounding it and shutting it in. But when SELF decreases—and Christ increases, then the picture is enlarged and takes in all of heaven's over-arching beauty. Then the stars shine down into its night and sunshine bathes its day.
Then the life of friction and worry is changed into quietness and peace. When the glory of Christ streams over this little, cramped, fretted, broken life of ours—peace comes, and the love of Christ brightens every spot and sweetens all bitterness. Trials are easy to bear when self is small—and Christ is large.

We are apt to grow weary of the bitter, sorrowful struggle that goes on in our hearts, evermore, between the old nature and the new nature, between the old self and the new Christ. It seems sometimes as if it never would be ended. It seems, too, at times, as if we were making no progress in the struggle, as if there were no decreasing of self—and no increasing of Christ. We find the old evil things unconquered still, after years of battling—the old envies and jealousies, the old tempers, the old greed, the old irritabilities, the old doubt and fear and unbelief. Will there never be release from this conflict?

Yes, if only we live patiently and bravely, in faith and love and loyalty, SELF will decrease—and Christ will increase until He fills our whole life. If we reach up ever toward the light—our past of failure and unworthiness will be left behind and we shall grow into the fullness of the stature of Christ! The new will conquer and expel the old—until it becomes "None of self—and all of Christ!"

3.05.2017

Happy Birthday, Caleb!


Caleb Jeremiah,

What a difference you make in our family!
Since you were a baby you have made us laugh, smile, and enjoy life because of your easy-going, light-hearted, humorous personality.
We love you because you are YOU ... all the time.
Consistent and faithful. Two of your best qualities!

There are a few character traits you possess that stand out from the others.
You are thoughtful and kind, continually looking for ways to make people feel good.
You are adept at serving children and adults alike, whether you are playing games, engaged in conversation, or simply offering your sweet and calming presence.

My favorite thing about you, however, is your God-given compassion and desire to serve those who struggle with disabilities. You are not shy, fearful, or intimidated by the needs. You just want to DO something, and this, my dear son, is a gift.
Our human nature shies away from the uncomfortable, but for some, the Lord places a strong sense of justice, compassion, and grace within their hearts to fight for those who are ignored and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. He has placed those things in you, Caleb. 
Cultivate those qualities. Ask the Lord to increase your compassion, and ask Him to show you how to use it to encourage, support, and serve others - for their good and for His glory.
You can make a difference for the Kingdom, Caleb Jeremiah. Don't miss the opportunity!

You are a wonderful young man, Caleb, and I love you.
Thank you for being an affectionate and thoughtful son
who willingly gives hugs and tells me he loves me - every day.

Happy 13th Birthday!

Love, Mom

3.04.2017

Suit up - for offense and defense!

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6

"The enemy will not see you vanish into God's company without an effort to reclaim you."
- C.S. Lewis

"We look upon the enemy of our souls as a conquered foe, so he is, but only to God, not to us."
- Oswald Chambers

"The devil is nimble; he can run apace; he is light of foot; he hath overtaken many. They that would have heaven must run for it." - John Bunyan

"I know well that when Christ is nearest, Satan also is busiest." - Robert Murray McCheyne

"Satan can make men dance upon the brink of hell as though they were on the verge of heaven."
- Charles Spurgeon

"There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan." - C.S. Lewis

"As the most dangerous winds may enter at little openings, so the devil never enters more dangerously than by little unobserved incidents, which seem to be nothing, yet insensibly open the heart to great temptations." - John Wesley

"Should anyone allow his head to cease thinking, searching, and deciding and to no longer check his experience and action against the Bible, he is practically inviting Satan to invade his mind and deceive him." - Watchman Nee

"When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy." - Corrie Ten Boom

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6:10-18

3.01.2017

No shame!

When a Christian author was criticized for giving Scripture references to support his work rather than writing out the actual verses for his readers, his friend (John Sowell) encouraged him, "God's Word is the tiger that devours the heart set on the flesh. Unleash that tiger upon your readers' hearts."

Isn't that a fantastic quote?
You could exchange the word "readers" for listeners, students, children, friends, counselees, or church members.

Everyone has a "heart set on the flesh."
The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Therefore, every one of us needs the tiger-like conviction and life-changing power of Scripture.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13 

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

II Timothy 3:16, 17

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing
James 1:23-25 

Whether you are writing, speaking, teaching, discipling, or counseling ... boldly and willfully unleash the tiger of God's Word to bring refreshment, healing, conviction, change, and joy to the hearts and minds of those listening. Some may not appreciate it at the moment, and some may resent you, but God promises that His Word never returns void and always accomplishes His purposes.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10, 11

Never be ashamed or afraid to use Scripture!
Never shy away from quoting a verse that is fitting for the need of the moment.
Never miss an opportunity to speak the comforting promises of God's Word to a hurting heart.
Never shrink away from the chance to share the life-saving good news of the Gospel.
Never listen to the enemy when he whispers the lie that no one "needs" God's Word.
Never let eye-rolling or mocking tones silence the TRUTH of Scripture - and it's remedy for sin.

But this? Yes! A million times, YES!
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15