5.31.2017

They let us love them!


In honor of National Foster Care Month, we wanted to highlight our day with our G3.
(I carried my camera around with me all day so I could capture the good moments!)
We have not been together in a month, so everyone was excited to see each other and they spent six hours playing and laughing and eating without a cross word or fight between them. LOVELY!

I have said it before and I will say it again ...
the Lord used these three children and the Guske family to change us - for GOOD!
He had already called us to orphan care when my sweet friend shared her need for respite, so it took less than 22 seconds to know that it was the Lord who had prepared us for one another.
We serve them, they serve us.
We love them, they love us back.
It is a beautiful friendship - and we are BLESSED.

It is a privilege and an honor to be invited into the lives of those who have not only answered the call to "visit orphans in their distress," but welcomed those same orphans into their home and their family. Forever.


This photo seems normal enough, but Ellie is READING - a BOOK - to Grace!
From the outside looking in these two appear to have very little in common, but their similarities run deep. They understand each other, and they are good for each other. 



Snack time!
And there is never any left!



The first thing Henry does when he walks into our house is to find me and say, "Hi, Mom!"
The next (and most important) thing is to start wrestling with one, or all of the Eastman boys.
He can go for a good solid half hour before wearing out and needing a change of pace.
He fits RIGHT in at the Eastman home!


❤ I LOVE LOVE LOVE this photo. ❤
I call it, "Secrets."


I do not live with him, but I am confident that Toby is rarely seen without a car or Lego in his hands!
This boy spends hours playing with cars and Lego's when he is with us.
Just like our boys!




Henry and Grace never leave our home before spending the better part of an hour on the swing!


And when we run errands together, this is how we do it!
Double carts and all snacks eaten in the parking lot before getting in the van.
(Don't worry, I am aware that my "Pinterest Mommy" nomination will be void after this! HA!
Like I would even MAKE it on that list!)

A letter to his sons - but fitting for everyone.

Every week Dennis sends a letter to our sons. The letters are meant to encourage, convict, push the boys to think about biblical truth and apply it to their personal lives. I love that he write to them! And I pray that Micah, Luke, and Caleb will take his words to heart, knowing that they come from a place of wisdom and fatherly love.

I wanted to share today's letter because it is not only applicable to young men but an excellent reminder for all who love the Lord and choose to follow Him.

Greetings My Sons,

John Wooden used to say, "Character is who you are when no one is watching."
What a valuable reminder that who we really are is laid before us when we are not under the performance spotlight of the opinion and approval of others.
However, who we are in private must be established by a proper foundation if we hope to act correctly in public as well as in private. 

These foundational principles are called values, and when they are based on the bedrock of Scripture they will serve you well, especially in times of storms of life. But, when they are based on the opinions of others or even our own opinion of right and wrong ("I gotta be me"), disaster could be lurking.
Please consider Matthew 6 today. Jesus desires that His children walk according to the drumbeat of the Heavenly Father - not the frail patterings of our own philosophies. However solid they may seem at the time, those thoughts will prove unreliable.
It is my great desire to see you become men who walk in truth because you know the truth. 

“If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31, 32
I love you.
Dad
Matthew 6
        
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

5.28.2017

Encouragement.


This hymn has been playing over and over in my mind since church this morning after listening to a wonderful soloist sing it with passion and beauty.
How good God is to give men and women the ability to write words and music that remind us of His promises ... and draw our thoughts toward HIM.
May the truth of this song encourage your heart as you look toward the new week.

Listen to this beautiful hymn here: His Eye is on the Sparrow

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

5.26.2017

Ministering to the suffering heart.

I am studying the book of Job with a sweet sister and the last few weeks of study have revealed a fascinating perspective about ministry which I have never noticed in previous readings of this wonderful book. (I love that God's Word is ALIVE and ACTIVE!) 
When someone is suffering, there is not only “a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3),” there is a WAY to speak! As Ephesians 4:29 commands, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for EDIFICATION that it may bring GRACE to those who hear it.

Jobs friends started well as we see in chapter two.
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
This is a beautiful beginning!

But it did not last.
Once Job shows vulnerability, confessing his sorrow, frustration, and woe, his friends do not maintain their silence, their sympathy, or their comfort. They open their mouths, not to comfort, but to criticize. And often, they wrap their critique in biblical truth.
For example, Zophar replies to Job:
Can you search out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than heaven— what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol— what can you know?
If you would prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward Him;
If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away,
And would not let wickedness dwell in your tents;
Then surely you could lift up your face without spot;
Yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear;
Because you would forget your misery,
Though you were dark, you would be like the morning.
And you would be secure, because there is hope;
Yes, you would dig around you, and take your rest in safety. Job 11

Zophar spoke truth and his doctrine was sound. So what was his error? He spoke with judgment and condemnation instead of love. His words were as a noisy gong or clanging symbol. (I Cor 13)
If only Zohar had said, “Job. Brother! Friend! I cannot imagine the sorrow and pain you are experiencing right now. I have never suffered as you are suffering, so I do not understand. There is nothing I can say to make it better or restore what you have lost so I will do the only thing I can. I will pray for you, and I will encourage you with God’s promises.” 
What a difference that would have made!

But alas, he did not approach his friend in this gracious manner, causing Job to respond like this:
Then Job answered and said,
“No doubt you are the (only) people, and wisdom will die with you!
But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Indeed, who does not know such things as these? Job 12:1-3

I love this glimpse into Job's human nature. Do you hear his sarcasm? 
He has been enduring the arrogant, less-than-helpful, and ignorant critiques of his friends since chapter four and he is running short on patience.
Job responds to his friends for several chapters, but this is my summation of what he said.
“Um, guys? Remember how God describes me? There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. Job 1 
I do not need a theology lesson right now. Everything I own has been stripped from me, and everyone I love, except my wife, is gone. 'I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.' I do not need doctrine. I need friends. I need you to listen … empathize … and pray for me. I am not asking you to fix what happened or diagnose me. Just LISTEN. Encourage me. Remind me of God’s promises and the truth in His Word. I know Him, I love Him, I trust Him, and I am counted as righteous before Him. He has allowed these trials for a reason, and though I do not like it, or even understand it, I know that He is God and I am not - so I will praise Him in the middle of the storm. He will take care of me as He has always been faithful to do. All I need from YOU - is friendship. Can you do that?

The memory of learning the important difference between these methods of ministry when I was in college is vivid. I remember the class, the professor, the conversations, and the Scriptures used to teach us how to minister to someone who is suffering. I am incredibly embarrassed to admit that it took me well over a decade to fully embrace and apply the lessons learned, but the Lord has confirmed them over and over again through the many counseling experiences He has allowed me to be a part of through the years. 
If I start banging the Bible over the head of a hurting sister sitting across from me, saying, “You know what Scripture says! DO IT!” I create an atmosphere that lacks compassion and grace. But - if I listen - seek to understand her pain - ask questions to draw out her heart - and tell her how sorry I am, I build trust. And once that happens, my sister is willing to hear me speak God’s truth, even when it is hard to hear. 

Paul confirms this in I Thessalonians 2 when he says, For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
When we encourage and comfort a wounded, suffering, hurting person first ...
embracing them
listening as they express their sorrow
weeping with them
praying with them
serving them ...
we create trust - and connection - and THEN we can speak the truth of Scripture in a way that will be received with acceptance and grace. And this is always the goal! For without the beautiful truth of God's love, forgiveness, and mercy, our words are empty and without purpose. Hurting people need Jesus. It is our job to place them before Him - and then let Him do His work.

We are not perfect. Sometimes we wound and disappoint others out of simple ignorance, not malice. Other times it is our pride that causes thoughtless, ineffective, and hurtful comments to penetrate the heart of a suffering friend. Praise God that He offers to give us wisdom in abundance, without rebuke, as many times as we ask, so we may know when to speak and when to be silent, and when to speak words that edify and give grace. "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3

5.24.2017

I love when He does this!

One of my favorite things about Scripture is that it is LIVING and ACTIVE.
Whether you read a verse for the first time or the 91st time - it always hits the target of your heart. God promises this, doesn't He? 
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
Of course, there are times we wish Scripture was inactive so we did not have to feel the sting of conviction that truth inflicts, but there are few things in life as sweet as opening the Bible and reading exactly what we need in that moment. Encouragement, comfort, strength, a reminder to rejoice ... all of them given by a God who meets us where we are and delights in giving good things to His children. Including His own words!

This very thing happened last night.

We have committed to a monthly Mom's Night for our Orphan Care families since the first one was such an encouragement and such a success. Last night was our second evening together, so I wanted to prepare something from Scripture to share with the ladies. I did not have a direction or a plan but knew I wanted to find a passage that would offer refreshment.
As I read through the Psalms of the day, the Lord hit 'pause' in two places - Psalm 23 and Psalm 113. I could not see the correlation between the two passages, but He would not let me move elsewhere, so I read them again, bookmarked them, and said, "Okay, Lord! Do with these what You will!"

For three hours I sat with my sisters as we discussed ... the interest and enthusiasm for orphan care that is beginning to take hold of our church body, the joys and sorrows of foster care, the strain and stress on marriage that comes with having the government set up camp in your living room, the frustrations of the system, the heartache of having to lose a child you thought you could adopt, the reality of needing boundaries and wisdom to know when to say 'yes' or 'no' to a placement, the highs and lows of our personal marriages, the intense spiritual battle that surrounds orphan care, the need for and the lack of compassion and empathy, and the many needs of our own ten families who are currently caring for orphans or waiting for the children God has for them.
And as we talked, the purpose of the two passages became crystal clear.

First, when we are living in the middle of difficult circumstances and intense trials, we must remember to whom we belong - a powerful, loving, gracious, amazing, and sovereign God who is in control. We may not always be able to recognize His hands at work, but He IS always working.
Psalm 113 is a wonderful reminder of this truth!

Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! 
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore! 
From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! 
The Lord is high above all nations, 
and His glory above the heavens! 
Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, 
who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? 
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, 
to make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people. 
He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

As comforting as it is to know that we belong to a God who holds the oceans in the palm of His hand and uses the earth as a footstool, sometimes we need to be reminded that He is a personal God. A God who cares about our needs, our emotions, our fears, and our sorrows. 
Psalm 23 is perfect!
This Psalm has been a part of my memory since I was a child, but never have I read it from the perspective of intimacy. I always viewed it through the eyes of God's provision and goodness, but my goodness - it is so PERSONAL!

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.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Thank You, Lord, that You are a God of power and might who knows all things and tells the sun when to shine and the winds where to blow. And thank You for being a God who combines His sovereignty with love and pours His grace upon His children every day with mercies that are new and forgiveness that is real. Blessed be the name of the Lord! The Lord who restores our souls. 

Quote. He gives us what we need!

Instead of a river, God often gives us a brook - which may be running today, and dried up tomorrow.
Why?
To teach us not to rest in our blessings - but in the blesser Himself.
Arthur Pink

"Hold me up - and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117

"So do not fear - for I am with you! Do not be dismayed - for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!" Isaiah 41:10

5.22.2017

I found the answer.

Every Sunday morning my phone alarm wakes me up at 6:45 a.m. with the words of the song "Lord, I Need You" floating through the air. I am not sure why I selected that song out of a playlist of 100+ options, other than the fact that it is one of my favorites, but I did.
I have listened to it week after week (more than once each Sunday since I always hit 'snooze'), but it was not until yesterday that I realized that it is an absolutely perfect song with which to begin each day.

I fail as a parent. Daily. Hourly. And sometimes - before I even get out of bed.
I search Scripture, I pray, I read books on parenting written by godly men and women, and I seek counsel from mature believers in order to discover any blind spots in my parenting so I can be aware of my weaknesses, intentionally "put off" my sin, and replace it with correct thinking, attitudes, and actions.
And yet ...
I find myself banging my head against the same brick wall that I banged it on yesterday. And the day before that.
Why, Lord? What am I missing?!?

Yesterday morning, He answered that question.
The answer is in a line of the song ...
And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You, Jesus, You're my hope and stay.

When I CANNOT STAND.

How easy it is to think we can.
Life experience
Intelligence
Skills
Strengths ...
these fool us into thinking we are self-sufficient. That we can "do it on our own" because we have been successful in the past. Regardless of why we think we can do it on our own, or why we believe we are strong enough, the truth is that we can do nothing without Christ. And anything we can do, any success we have is because it is done through Him. Scripture tells us this in John 15:5. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

There is another line in the song that echoes this same thought.
Without You I fall apart, You're the One that guides my heart.

"Without ME you can do NOTHING," Jesus said.
So why do I try?
Without spending any time thinking through the past week I can tell you that I parented with 90% of my own strength. My own abilities. My own intelligence, problem-solving skills, and wisdom. Does the Lord give us these gifts, having created us with a purpose and in His own image? Absolutely! Mankind is able to accomplish great things because of the way the Lord allows our minds and hands to work. Including parenting our children. But we cannot take the credit.
"Rejoice IN THE LORD," Scripture says.
"Every good and perfect gift comes from ABOVE."
"I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST, who gives me strength."
"Trust the LORD with all your heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding."

The brick wall that I continue to bang my forehead against was built with my own pride.
Every time I thought I had the answers, every time I thought knew best, every time I searched through my personal pool of shallow wisdom instead of seeking the Lord ... another brick was added.
Thankfully, the wall has been destroyed many times after the Lord revealed my pride and showed me that I was trying to parent my children my way rather than His. He kicks the first hole in the middle of it and then lets me join Him as we pull the entire thing down to the ground. But slowly, one brick at a time, I always rebuild the wall.
And I am exhausted.

But praise Him - He is a gracious God!
Every time He helps me pull apart the bricks, I look at Him with tears in my eyes and say, "I'm sorry, Lord. Again. I know I cannot do this without You, but still, I try. It's not worth it. I work too hard in my own strength, failing because I went ahead of You, and then waste more time demolishing the very wall that I created with my own hands. When will I learn, Lord? Teach me how to recognize my need for You. I am weary and worn and cannot keep doing things my way."
And that is when He leans down, with His arms stretched wide and says, "Come, Michelle. You are weary and heavy-laden, and I promised I would give you rest. Your burden is heavy and your yoke is choking you, but Mine ... Mine is easy. You can learn from Me because I am a gentle teacher, and you will find the peace and rest you long for."

And the words of this song roll through my mind as I settle in the comfort of His embrace.

Lord, I Need You (← click to listen)

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.19.2017

This and that.

Happy Friday!
What a wonderful week this has been. Slow, simple, quiet, and relaxing.
I surprised Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie with a week OFF of school. We finished our main curriculum early, so it seemed like a fun idea to bask in a week of leisure. We all needed it - and we all ENJOYED it!
Our entire weekend will follow the same pattern, and we are thankful!

Today marked the end of the Government & Economics class.
Dr. E, as the students know him, spent the year educating twelve high school students about the inner workings of our political system, and enlightened them about the realities of money. The best project he gives them is a Personal Finance Project. They are given a career and a salary and must create an entire yearly budget based on that number. Everything must be included from rent to movie tickets. Teens often *think* they know what it takes to live on their own, but seeing the truth in black and white on a budget sheet opens their eyes to TRUTH.
My personal favorite of the class? Every morning Dennis marched the students outside where they would say the Pledge of Allegiance. In a time when many rage against the democratic system that keeps them free, I appreciate that my husband unapologetically honors our country, our government, and our freedom just as Scripture commands. Fear God. Honor the emperor. I Peter 2:17 
His students will always remember this!

Ellie had her first Salon experience this week.
When my stylist told me she charges the same price for a haircut for her long-time faithful clients as the discount hair places, I scheduled an appointment immediately!
Ellie's hair is thick and curly enough to create tangles that cause fights and tears with the hairbrush. Every - single - morning.
But after an excellent cut, several layers, new product, and those delightful thinning shears, Ellie walked out of the salon with wonderfully manageable hair.
Today she came out with wet hair and her brush to say, "Look! It goes right through!" as she effortlessly brushed through her locks. YES!
Welcome to the world of Salon living, Ellie!

~~~~ ~~~~ We have our Orphan Care Date Night tomorrow!
God is moving in our ministry, in our families, and in our church. PRAISE HIM! PRAISE HIM!
We have had six children adopted into their forever homes in the last six months, and one more is waiting for the court date to make her a forever part of her family. Thank You, Lord!
We have had three placements in the past three months, one who is in direct route to adoption.
There are tens of thousands of foster children and orphans right here in California, and one by one our church families are taking them in and loving them as their own.
What a privilege it is to walk alongside these families! ❤

~~~~ If you or anyone you know struggles with depression, anxiety, and/or fear, I highly recommend
these books.
We have no problem with someone getting a pacemaker to keep their heart in rhythm, glasses to help them see, or shots to keep their blood levels in check, but we are quick to judge those who need help keeping their minds working as they ought.
Sin did not just break bodies, it broke minds. And millions of people suffer the effects of both.

Charles Spurgeon is probably the most famous Christian who openly shared about his unending battle with depression this side of heaven. He has many excellent sermons and quotes on the topic, and I selected these two to share with the hope they will encourage someone today.

I know, perhaps as well as anyone, what depression means, and what it is to feel myself sinking lower and lower. Yet at the worst, when I reach the lowest depths, I have an inward peace which no pain or depression can in the least disturb. Trusting in Jesus Christ my Savior, there is still a blessed quietness in the deep caverns of my soul, though upon the surface, a rough tempest may be raging, and there may be little apparent calm. -Charles Spurgeon

“O dear friend, when thy grief presses thee to the very dust, worship there!” -Charles Spurgeon

We said good-bye to our ducklings today.
They brought us such joy, and we are thankful we had the opportunity to witness life break forth from a little, white shell and watch the ducklings grow and change before our very eyes.
I love that God created animals for man to enjoy. And He did so with such diversity and beauty! Even five ducklings had different personalities, looks, and sounds. He could have made them all the same, but He didn't. He created them for His glory and our delight. Thank You, Lord!
(We did not cry when we had to leave them at the feed store, but Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie kissed them goodbye, and my throat tightened a bit.) They will be missed!

~~~~ Happy Weekend to you!
And remember - you can make a difference EVERY DAY. It may not be noticed by the world, but it will make a difference in the life of the one who received your kindness - and always brings glory to God. ♥

5.18.2017

His beauty - His Time.


He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Lord, thank You for creating beauty everywhere.
It is not hard to find and it is easy to enjoy.
Teach us to appreciate beauty so we are quick to offer Praise to the One who made it.
And Lord, teach us how to see the beauty that lies deep within the seemingly unattractive.
Diamonds hide in rocks, pearls hide in plain-looking oysters, and flowers hide in the dirt until it is time to push through the soil and show their colors.
So too, with people.
A gentle, compassionate heart hides behind a larger-than-life and loud personality.
A theologian hides in a fidgeting junior high boy.
A prayer warrior hides in a leather-clad, tattooed, Harley-riding biker.
A medical genius hides in the stuttering, socially awkward college student.
A writer of profound biblical insight hides in the depression of the middle-aged pastor.
We cannot always see the beauty that lies within - but You see it, Lord!
And when You are ready, You let that beauty shine 
because You make EVERYTHING beautiful -
in YOUR time.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3

5.17.2017

Honoring the ministry of a beloved brother in Christ.


 Tonight we honored the ministry of a young man who has made a significant impact in the lives of our youth, faithfully preaching the Word of God, continually pushing their thoughts toward Christ, and intentionally challenging them to pursue Christ - with passion and purpose.

Scripture says, "Let another praise you, not your own lips." Proverbs 27:2
Justin lives this verse.
He serves faithfully.
Studies with solid focus.
Invests willingly.
Prays passionately.
Encourages constantly.
Responds with grace.
And he does it all in silence, never seeking attention or praise, faithfully completing the tasks God places before him with diligence and joy.

As a sister in Christ, I love him and appreciate his passion for God's Word. The first time I ever talked to Justin I asked, "What is your ministry goal?" to which he responded, "My desire is to raise the theological literacy of the church." And he has achieved this goal in the lives of our youth.

As a peer in leadership, I respect him and appreciate his ability to lead with quiet strength.

As a mother with young men under his leadership, I trust him.
Micah and Luke sought his counsel on important topics and never for a moment did I concern myself with his response, for I knew it would be biblical, sound, and wise. Both boys can repeat what Justin told them with precise detail because he speaks with teens in a way that grabs their attention, challenges their thinking, and is not forgotten.

The Lord blessed us with your presence, Justin, and the impact you had on our youth group and our family will be not only be remembered - it will be cherished.
We love you and we look forward to seeing how the Lord continues to mature you in the faith as you run after Him - harder today than you did yesterday.

❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤




5.14.2017

Mother's Day!


Mother's Day began with ... sleeping in (woohoo!), breakfast together,
and a beautiful morning enjoying God's creation at the beach.
We stumbled onto this lovely spot full of rocks to climb and explore and had to capture it on film.
The wind was blowing like crazy, and we only had the iPhone camera which has horrible zoom capabilities, yet Dennis managed to capture a shot of me and our children to mark the occasion.








I love these six people!


We hosted a Mother's Day dinner in the evening.
Our brother-in-law, Doug, smoked a delicious brisket for us, and we topped off the meal with a chocolate fudge cake from one of our favorite bakeries.
It was nice spending Mother's Day with my mom and my sister!










Without this man, I could not do what I do.
He supports me, encourages me, pushes me, forgives me, and loves me - even when I don't deserve it.
Thank you, Dennis. For EVERYthing.
I love you.

5.12.2017

This and that.

It's Friday!
A whole weekend ahead of us with plenty of enjoyment to be had.
We kick it off tonight by spending an evening with some dear friends and end with a Mother's Day celebration on Sunday.
Fun and rest seem all the sweeter after a week of hard work, don't they?

My gratefulness for the body of Christ seems to increase with my age. In the past week, we have needed a plumber, a therapist, a dermatologist, a car salesman, a network for a part-time job search, and prayer, and every single one was met through our brothers and sisters in Christ. A referral here, advice there, and prayer mixed in between. Thank You, Lord, for the beauty and joy of the body! You are all-sufficient to meet our every need, yet You give us people to join You in Your work. You don't have to - but You do! Thank You.

Meet our ducklings!
Mark
Jacob
Joshua
Iris
Mary

We have been enjoying them immensely these past two weeks! And since we actually know what we are doing this time, we have them on a feeding/playing/sleeping schedule! When it is time to eat the squawk like crazy, and when they are ready to be held they chirp in a way that says, "We want attention! Play with us!"
This experiment has been so much FUN!

~~~ The Summer Schedule (for Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie) is DONE!
- 4 days peer week
- 2-3 hours per day
- One week off each month
Bible (we have a new book!), a unit study on character, math, and geography through literature. I am so excited!
The Eastman Academy does not close for the summer.
A) There are no crops to harvest (the original reason for summer break).
B) In the real world, no one except royalty and Mr. Darcy get to spend three months doing absolutely nothing, and we want our children to be prepared for the real world.
C) A productive summer allows for a lighter fall/spring academic schedule and gives us the opportunity to focus on something that didn't quite fit into our school year.
D) My children need structure and order or they fall apart.

Micah, Luke, and Caleb have a Summer Reading List and Math to accomplish each day, but all other scholastic studies will be set aside for the next three months while they WORK.
Micah asked to increase his hours to 20-25 hours per week at Chick-fil-A, and Luke will spend his second summer as the helpful sidekick of our friend who has graciously allowed him to work with him at his storage facilities. Our guys are so thankful for these jobs!

~~~ Josiah experienced something new and interesting on Thursday!
A friend sent me a message announcing that her seamstress friend needed a "size 12 boy" as a fit model for a boys clothing line and was I interested? Sure! Why not?
Jennifer invited us to her workshop so she could measure Josiah herself and determine if his body was "industry standard."
She was a deLIGHTful woman, full of energy and joy, and made the whole process pleasantly fun.
She took pictures, measured Josiah from head to foot, explained the ins and outs of the industry, walked us to the door, and told us she would contact me within the week if Josiah was chosen.
Chosen? I had no idea this was a "cast call!" #howdidInotcatchthisdetail
Children grow and change so quickly the seamstresses must replace their male/female fit models on a regular basis, whereas their adult fit models can work for years since they maintain size and stature.
"Really?" I asked. "Talk about pressure to stay the same size day after day, year after year!"
Jennifer said, "Yes. Even two inches can ruin an entire design, so if they fluctuate we have to find a new model."
I laughed OUT LOUD and said, "HA! I can change two inches after one really good Mexican dinner!"
It was an educational event, to be sure, and I think I will appreciate clothing a little more now that I know how much happens between the designer's sketch and the store shelf!

Honestly, I am not sure who enjoys our ducklings more. Me or the kids!
They make me smile and laugh.
Even watching them eat and drink is entertaining for they have a unique style and they do it with gusto!
My favorite part, however, is holding them. They start off chirping and climbing all over me (including in my hair) but then they settle in, get cozy, and fall asleep right in my hands.
Such a sweet time with God's creation!

~~~ Our Orphan Care ministry is exciting right now. So much is happening!
New placements, God moving on behalf of children who are being held up in the bureaucracy of the system, and six adoptions in the last six months for three of our church families.
God is good and He is truly the Father of the fatherless!
Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song to Him who rides through the deserts; His name is the Lord; exult before Him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation. Psalm 68:4-5


~~~ Mother's Day.
A day that finds women rejoicing ~ and weeping.
Mother's Day is not a joyful one for many, many women.
Pray for those with empty arms.
Pray for those who have lost their own mothers, or are estranged from them.
Pray for those whose children are rebellious and angry and want nothing to do with them.
And before you walk into the church sanctuary or arrive at a brunch, ask the Lord to help you SEE the woman who needs extra kindness on Sunday. A word - a touch - a smile - a hug.
For, as Scripture says,
Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13

5.11.2017

He is lovely - and He is our God!


These are my favorite roses from my aunt's garden which lines our entire front yard. Her mother spent years toiling in the dirt while the sun beat on her back and the wind blew in her face. She loved her roses. Dozens of bushes were planted with loving care and thoroughly enjoyed for decades by the keen eyes that desired beauty all around her. And now, we are able to enjoy the fruits of her labor as new flowers show themselves each season reminding us of God's creative and beautiful design. Such a privilege!

I've been saving this image to pair with a wonderful quote, and the Lord has provided!
I hope it will encourage someone who needs to be reminded that our God is, indeed - LOVELY!

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

O what a Savior is Jesus Christ! He is the chief among ten thousand! Look at His sinless, yet real humanity - without a single taint, yet sympathizing with us in all our various conditions - our afflictions - our temptations - our infirmities - our griefs. Now that He is in glory, He is still cherishing a brother's heart - bending down His ear to our petitions - ever standing near . . .
to catch our sighs,
to dry our tears,
to provide for our needs,
to guide us by His counsel, and
afterward to receive us to glory!

O what a Savior is Jesus Christ!

When He is known - all other beings are eclipsed.

When His beauty is seen - all other beauty fades.

When His love is felt - He becomes supremely enthroned in the affections.

To know Him more becomes the one desire of the renewed mind, and to make Him more known is the one aim of the Christian life.

- Octavius Winslow

5.08.2017

EXCELLENT Quote.



It is tragic to go through our days making Christ the subject of our study 
but not the sustenance of our souls
- Vance Havner

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. Matthew 22

Lord, teach me how to make You my EVERYthing, I pray.

5.05.2017

This and that.

We are excited over here in the Eastman home because we have five ducklings to enjoy for the next few weeks! Round two of Operation Duck Hatch was a SUCCESS. Iris was the first to break forth from her shell last Friday, but the other nine eggs showed no signs of producing life. On day 28 I candled them again and was thrilled to find six eggs with movement and shadows of beaks in the air sac. Yes!
The chirping began Thursday morning, much to the delight of Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie, and by this morning we had five fluffy, adorable ducklings cuddled together in the cage. (Sadly, two fully formed ducklings could not break through their shells, so Luke buried them in the backyard.)
Witnessing God's creation from beginning to end is a beautiful thing and continues to make me stand back in awe and wonder. We belong to such a creative and purposeful God!

Iris is Ellie's duckling. She has been caring for her all week. Duck's are social creatures, so being alone does not suit them. Iris needed much attention, even in the wee hours of the morning.
Ellie was willing to wake up and get Iris, but she just couldn't quite hold it together to stay awake and play with her so early in the day.
So ... when your duck needs early-morning attention, but you are too tired to attend to her, this seems like a great solution!
Well-played, Ellie! Well-played!

~~~ Summer is only 27 days away! 27 days until we can sleep in a few days a week, spend every Thursday at the beach, meet up with friends we could not see during the school year, enjoy the long hours of daylight, bask in the warmth of the sun, do some exploring, and have a relaxed learning schedule to keep us focused and prepared for the fall.
How good it was of the Lord to create seasons and rhythms of work and rest for His people!

A dear friend sent me a text asking if I would be willing to do a book study with her this summer, on the topic of marriage.
Usually, we both spend our summers reading excellent books on parenting and homeschooling to prepare for the coming school year, but she feels a great conviction to spend the next three months focusing on her marriage. Her conviction became my conviction, so as of June 1st we are diving into one book each month. This should be GOOD!

The COUSINS are here! The COUSINS are here!
My brother had to make his way down south for a work conference, so they loaded up the whole family and drove everyone down for the weekend.
We have enjoyed each afternoon together, and the boys will enjoy a traditional 'cousin sleepover' on Saturday night.
Ellie and Olivia had fun going on a Girl Date at an old-fashioned drug store with my mom and CC and then spent time playing together alone before returning to all of the boys. Just what they needed!



~~~ Last night I enjoyed a sweet time of fellowship with my sisters. We had a few hours alone together so we curled up on my couch and spent the entire time talking about the secrets and struggles of our hearts. We were able to listen to one another, encourage on another, and pray together.
We needed this time. And now we know to serve one another better in the times we are apart, and pray for each other with purpose.
As we shared with each other last night, I could not help but think of this verse,
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17 How thankful I am that the Lord has given me Stephanie and CC, for they are my sisters AND my friends. ❤

~~~ Happy Weekend, everyone!
I will leave you with this quote to encourage and inspire you.
"Brethren, the time is short!" 1 Corinthians 7:29
Our time below is brief and uncertain - and therefore very precious.
Let us employ it, so as to improve it.
Let us live for God and eternity!
The time is short - oh, who can tell
How short his time below may be;
Today on earth, his soul may dwell,
Tomorrow in eternity!

"So teach us to number our days - that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Psalm 90:12

- James Smith, 1871