6.28.2017

A New (and specific) Ministry for MOMS.

The 2016-17 school year was the most difficult I have experienced as a mom and as a homeschooling parent. Every day I felt like I was treading water, trying to keep from being pushed under, and it was only because of God's amazing and unending grace I made it through.
The reason for the struggle: Learning Needs
Five of my children battle intense learning issues which create frustration, exhaustion, and discouragement every.single.time they open a book or pick up a pen.

In the middle of September, I had to throw out every piece of my carefully chosen curriculum and start from scratch. I thought I knew my kids. I study them. I am, in essence, a student of them. The past eight years (since our first child was diagnosed with dyslexia) have found me devouring books and articles, scouring websites, and attending seminars to understand what dyslexia is, what it is not, and how I can serve my kids the best way possible.
But there was a problem.
I am not dyslexic.
And because I am not - I don't understand their world. I try to understand, I strain my ears to listen to adults who share their stories, I bury myself in documentaries and movies that highlight learning struggles so I can try to piece it all together in order to see the bigger picture, but the truth is ...
I have never walked a mile in their shoes. I have never even walked around the block in their shoes! I simply don't get it. And because I don't get it - I misread much. I see defiance and laziness and apathy instead of seeing the truth: My kids can't do certain things. At least not the way everyone else does them. Dennis tells me just about every day, "CAN'T and WON'T are not the same, Michelle. CAN'T is outside of their control. WON'T is a choice."
Yet I miss it. Far more often than I want to admit.

I will not bore you with the details, but I will share that after ten months of intense trials, arguments, books thrown across the room, countless tears, disappointments, heartache, dozens of conversations, prayer, and looking at my husband in tears asking, "WHY didn't the Lord make me dyslexic? If He had I would understand! I would be more compassionate. I would be a better mother and a better wife," the Lord has shown me the purpose of my suffering.
Ministry.

Twelve years ago I sat on a hospital bed after delivering our son Matthew and said, “Lord, I am not the first mom to lose a baby and I will not be the last. This has to bigger than me. So what we can we do?”
Five years later we started our Miscarriage Ministry and though the website is stagnant, never updated or added to, we have logged over 30,000 hits. Why? Because women grieving the loss of their precious babies need to know they are not alone.
And mothers of children who have learning needs and/or special needs need to know the same.

I am now repeating the question I asked on the hospital bed - but in different circumstances.
"I am not the first mother with children who have learning/special needs, and I am confident I won't be the last. This year of unending struggle cannot be wasted, Lord! It has to serve a purpose that is bigger than me, bigger than our family, and bigger than how a mind does and does not work. So, what is it, Lord? How can we make my tears matter?!?"

In all of my research, study, and seminar attendance I have uncovered more information than one person needs to know about learning needs, but I have yet to discover anything that ministers to the hearts of the mothers who are in the struggle and the fight with their children. I am not the only mother weeping. I am not the only mother feeling guilty or isolated or fearing what the future looks like for her children. I am not the only one who understands the reality that these issues affect every part of my children's lives ... not just when they are sitting in front of a textbook.
There are other women like me - and I want them to know they are not alone.

Because the Lord is gracious and kind, He had me studying the book of Job with a friend the past few months. In many of the most trying moments, He would bring Job's words to mind. Though You slay me - YET I WILL PRAISE YOU. One way I can make this incredibly difficult year count for something eternal is to turn it around and use it to serve and minister to others who need the same comfort I needed when the overwhelming waves crashed upon my head.

And so, praise the Lord, a new ministry is about to begin!

I would like to invite women with children/teens who struggle with learning needs or special needs to my home for an evening of encouragement and support.
This is not a workshop, an evaluation, a diagnosis, or an IEP meeting.
The purpose is simple:
Share our stories, encourage one another, and pray.

Wednesday, August 2nd, 7:00 pm
(private message me or email me for details)


I chose to use this photo of my children to draw attention to this ministry for three important reasons.
1. The struggles our children face are REAL and we need fellowship with other women who understand. We can use the labels, call the issues what they are, and do so with our heads held high.
2. No more shame! Whether our children's struggles are obvious or invisible, there is nothing wrong with them. Each one was created in the image of an amazing God who purposely designed their minds and bodies to work differently - for a purpose. We may not understand His reasons or His ways, but we can rest in the truth that they ARE fearfully and wonderfully made!
3. Tears, disappointment, discouragement, frustration, and shame are realities for those who must engage in physical, mental, or intellectual battles every day. Life is hard enough without the added burden of not being able to read, see, or get out of bed. But the difficulties do not completely snuff out the JOY life offers. My son can barely read, cannot remember one times table, and does not read social cues well, but he loves to swim, listen to stories, ride bikes, gives hugs, build Lego's, worship, and laugh with his friends! Even with a diagnosis of "severe dyslexia" - life is GOOD. And there are many, many reasons to smile!

I have no idea what will come of this night, or where the Lord is leading, but it is clear that He IS leading - and pulling me right along with Him. For the first time in the last 10 months, instead of buckling under the weight of my trials, I am REJOICING in them!

My prayer for this ministry is that we will emulate the beautiful scene in Scripture of the four men who carried their friend to Jesus because they knew there was no better place for him to be ...
at the feet of the Savior.

Quote.

Dry wells send us to the fountain.
- Samuel Rutherford

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. 
The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4:13, 14

6.27.2017

Luke's MISSION TRIP to Mexico.


Tomorrow our son Luke returns home from an 11-day mission trip to Tepic, Mexico.
He had a choice to serve with the Tepic team or the Northern Ireland team, and he originally chose Ireland. Three weeks later he approached me and said, 
"Mom, I am switching my mission trip to Mexico."
"Why?"
"Well, after thinking about it and praying about it I realized that after three years of Spanish class the Lord has been preparing me to share the Gospel with the Mexican people. I have learned their language, I love the culture, and I want to serve them."
"That is an excellent and wise reason, son."

And the Lord was faithful to make this a reality!

Luke sends us an e-mail every day to check in and give us a quick update about the trip, and his enthusiasm for the work they are doing was palpable. I LOVE this! 
The Lord changed my life through the mission trips I was a part of in high school, and now, thirty years later, I can still remember the villages, the people, the lessons, the worship, and the impact each trip had on me as a teenage girl. What a BLESSING it is to serve saints around the world and bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him.

As much as I missed my six-foot blonde twin, I am incredibly grateful he had the opportunity to experience life through the eyes of the people of Tepic. 
He will return different - and the difference will be GOOD.


The Team is ready to GO!


The city square in Tepic where the team did much of their evangelism and open-air preaching. Lovely!

"Hello, everyone back in the states! Our team is having a great time here in Tepic and we are extremely blessed to be here. Today, after breakfast, we headed out to the streets to start evangelizing. Each of our teams passed out close to 1,000 tracts. The people here in Tepic are so accepting of us when we pass out tracts. It was rare for us to be rejected. Our translators are such a blessing, and I thank the Lord for their willingness to be a part of our group. After three hours we began a skit we have been practicing and performed it in the courtyard outside of our hotel room. After we finished, a local walked up to my team member and began to talk to him. Another one of our team members, Angel, came to the rescue to translate for Nathaniel. The man told them how impactful the skit was to him and he accepted Christ on the spot. Toward the end of our day, we performed our skit two more times at a park before returning to our hotel. At the hotel, we had a time of worship and shared our experiences of the day. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement! - Luke Eastman



The team put together a powerful evangelism skit to show the people the truth that Jesus took all of our sins upon Himself, bearing the wrath of God, to SAVE US through His sacrifice.
"I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6


The team had to take a bus, a boat, and then hike to the village of Pichachos to minister to the Christian Saints. It was a highlight of their trip!


"God not only gave us the opportunity to share our skit but brought the people to us so they could hear the Gospel! (The garbage industry went on strike just this week and the workers were hanging out in the square. This has never happened before.) 
To God be the glory as some professed Christ as their Savior after we preached!"


Sunday Morning worship! (Everyone looking their best!)
Luke said the service was beautiful and unique.


They played soccer with the locals before sharing the Gospel, led VBS in the village, visited an orphanage to play with the kids, and ministered to prisoners in a local prison.
The team members must have lovely feet because everywhere they stepped in the beautiful country of Mexico they delivered the life-saving message of the Gospel.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? 
And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 
And how are they to preach unless they are sent? 
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Romans 10:13-15

6.25.2017

Perspective. It matters.

One of my favorite things about the Lord is His ability to offer perspective when we feel like we are
being pressed in on every side.

Today I spent the afternoon/evening in a cardiovascular ICU as a "surrogate" with a two-month old baby in heart failure. And this was my view. (That small blue item on the far right is her swing.)
Her name is Lucy, and she is the sweet foster (and Lord willing soon-to-be-adopted!) child of one of our Orphan Care families.
My sister in Christ needed some time out of the hospital after living inside of it for two weeks. She needed time with her husband and her children, fresh air, normal food, sunshine on her skin, and a chance for her body, mind, and soul to recharge and refresh.

Asking a momma bear to walk away from her sick cub for several hours is a difficult thing, but when she willingly surrenders that child to your care, it is a privilege - and a JOY! How thankful I am that she trusts me to serve her in this way.
One of my favorite things about my sister Katie is that she is ALWAYS smiling. Always. This is the third time I have visited her in CHOC, and every.single.time I walk in the room, she greets me with a smile and a hug. No complaining. No whining. No bitterness. Just genuine joy. What an incredible testimony she is to the Christian faith!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 

If you are walking through your own trials - feeling like you can barely keep your head above water - fighting to take every thought captive ...
SERVE!
Serving others forces you to forget Self. And even if you have to return to the trials and sorrows of your own life as soon as you walk through your front door, you were given a respite. And just as you were able to forget your troubles for a time, the one you served was able to do so as well.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Uncertain.
Exhausted.
Troubled.
Sorrowful.
Overwhelmed.
These things are part of life.
Life is filled with trials, as Scripture promised it would be, so we must give thanks that things are not worse than they are, and rejoice that we belong to a God who sovereignly chose each trial for us - with purpose - and though the darkness may seem like it will never end, we have the wonderful, precious promise that He will never leave us or forsake us.
And THAT is a promise to cling to with all our might!

Perspective.
It matters.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16 -18

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things. Philippians 4:8

Quote.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account!" Hebrews 4:13

Take heed of what men call secret sins. There are only too many who continue in wickedness, because as they think, no one knows how wicked they are. They are immoral - but it is in the dark. Their mystery of iniquity trades in the works of darkness and in the dark. Indeed, if men could sin and no eye see them - then they might sin securely; but this is a falsehood as well as a mistake.

We cannot escape God's sight - any more than we can escape His judgment. He sees us, though like Adam and Eve we cover ourselves with fig leaves. And He will one day call to us, as He did to them, "Sinner - where are you?"

You cannot flee from His presence. You may more easily hide from yourselves - than from God.

I hope you will say, for I am sure you will see cause to do so, "How shall I do this wickedness - and sin against God!"

"Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do not I fill heaven and earth?"
Jeremiah 23:24

- Ralph Venning1669

6.21.2017

Marriage shows us our sin - and I possess more than I care to admit.

We have never used books as the centerpiece for premarital counseling with young couples, but that is going to change. This is a 'must read' for couples who want to say, "I do." Gary Thomas looks at marriage from all angles, speaks honestly about the realities and difficulties of married life, and boldly challenges couples to look at marriage through the lens of eternity and holiness rather than through the lens of selfishness and ease.

My friend Jill and I have worked our way through nine chapters, and both of us agree that no matter how long you have been married, there is always effort to be made because sin is always present. And we often choose to deal with sin the wrong way. We allow it to poison our relationship with our spouse instead of propelling us towards Christ.
Dennis and I know this first hand. We will celebrate 24 years of marriage in July, but we would look anyone straight in the eye and admit that we have only enjoyed about twelve years of a GOOD marriage. How we struggled and fought and served ourselves instead of serving one another in the beginning! It is only because of God's grace that we are together -faithful and committed until death parts us.

Chapter Seven was fantastic!
The title: "The Cleansing of Marriage - How Marriage Exposes Our Sin"
Typing out the entire chapter would be best, but in the interest of time, I will share the statements and thoughts that convicted me most.

Opening quotes: (both made me laugh)
"Marriage is the operation by which a woman's vanity and a man's egotism are extracted without anesthetic." Helen Rowland
"One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, "Here's to helping you discover what you're really like!" Gary and Betsy Ricucci

Marriage certainly has its challenges, but when these are faced head-on, our marriages can nurture our devotional lives in enriching ways. One of the ways is by unmasking our sin and our hurtful attitudes and thus leading us into a spirit of humility.

A husband who truly loves his wife will want to see her grow in Christlike purity. A wife who truly loves her husband will want to see him grow in godliness. Out of true love, both will put growth in godliness above affluence, public opinion, or personal ease.

This presupposes, of course, that I'm willing to be confronted with my sin - that I'm willing to ask my wife, "Where do you see unholiness in my life? I want to know about it. I want to change it."
This takes tremendous courage ... It means I'm willing to hear what displeases Lisa about me, as well as to refuse to become paralyzed by the fear that she will love me less or leave me because the sin in me is being exposed.

 I believe it is possible to enter marriage with a view to being cleansed spiritually, if, that is, we do so with a willingness to embrace marriage as a spiritual discipline. To do this, we must not enter marriage predominantly to be fulfilled, emotionally satisfied, or romantically charged, but rather to become more like Jesus Christ.
We must embrace the reality of having our flaws exposed to our partner and thereby having them exposed to us as well.
Sin never seems quite as shocking when it is known only to us; when we see how it looks or sounds to another, it is magnified ten times over.

Behind virtually every case of marital dissatisfaction lies unrepented sin.
Couples don't fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance.
Sin, wrong attitudes, and personal failures that are not dealt with slowly erode the relationship, assaulting and eventually erasing the once lofty promises made in the throes of an earlier (and less polluted) passion.

... I wouldn't be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can't tolerate in their spouse.

➙ View marriage as an entryway into sanctification - as a relationship that will reveal your sinful behaviors and attitudes and give you the opportunity to address them before the Lord.
But here's the challenge: Don't give in to the temptation to resent your partner as your own weaknesses are revealed. Don't run from what you are hearing about yourself, or push your spouse away because of it - accept it and use it to grow.

Much of our marital dissatisfaction comes from self-hatred. We don't like what we've done or become. We've let selfish and sinful attitudes poison our thoughts and lead us into shameful behaviors, and suddenly all we want is out.
The mature response, however, is not to leave a sinner (your spouse), it's to change a sinner. (yourself)

How ironic (or embarrassing) that less than an hour after finishing this chapter, I got into a fight.
With Dennis. As I listened to my ugly tone and felt my anger, I remembered all of these quotes. But like Cain, who did not rule over the sin that was crouching at his door, I did not close my lips until it was too late. And Dennis was the first to apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Deep sigh.

Lord, how much I have to learn! Make me a woman who loves Dennis more than I love myself, and please, let me see our marriage in the light of eternity rather than the frustrations of the present.

6.18.2017

Dennis writes to his sons.

When Dennis travels he is able to write. He has many profound thoughts rolling around in his mind on any given day, but the demands of work and family life do not allow those thoughts to make it onto paper. Once the plane carrying him to a different continent ascends into the air, he is able to relax, think without time restraints nipping at his heels, and organize the words in his mind into purposeful instruction for our children.
The letters are eagerly received by Micah, Luke, and Caleb every time Dennis is away, and this trip was no exception.
This was one of my favorite letters produced from his time in India, so I want to share it here with the hope that it will encourage or challenge someone who needs it as much as we do!

Greetings My Sons,

A favorite question adults like to ask children is, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" When I was in second grade I remember eagerly answering, "An astronaut." In kindergarten (age 5) I dressed up as an astronaut for Halloween in a really bad tie-in-the-back number that came with a plastic mask fastened to my head by a rubber band. Undaunted, I headed to school and was proud of my faux spacesuit until another class mate appeared in A REAL SPACESUIT complete with a helmet that lit up when he pressed a button on a handheld remote attached to his suit. Oh, the envy that burned in my soul that day! I thought to myself, "That guy might have the suit but I will be on the moon."

My second grade class report was on the Apollo 11 moon landing. I studied and practiced reading my report and when presentation day came I dazzled the audience with my lunar knowledge and proper use of the words "orbital rendezvous." I had big ideas and big dreams. However, I learned that since the goal of placing a man on the moon had already been accomplished, NASA would soon discontinue the lunar project. What??? How could this be? I did not even get a chance to go to the moon, and no one asked me if the lunar missions should be over! This news was quite unsettling.
I stopped dreaming of the moon.

The following year, at the wise age of eight, and with renewed passion and vigor I decided on a new career goal: Professional Football Player. No rockets, but you still get to wear a cool helmet. I spent days in the front yard, backyard, and school yard playing football. Then one day this horrid phrase was heard during morning announcements, “There will be NO TACKLE FOOTBALL OF ANY KIND PLAYED DURING RECESS OR LUNCH!” What???!!! Has the administration of the school lost their minds?

Though this disastrous edict was handed down to the inhabitants of Star View School - I knew that football was still in my future.

During my freshman year, I made a decision regarding football. I wanted to earn the right to play both ways and never step off the field. If it was game time I wanted to be on the field. No sidelines. No waiting to get a turn. On the field.
This was my hope until my sophomore year. As a sophomore, I started. I was even Team Captain.
Junior year I expected the same. Even if I did not start both ways I assumed I would get my share of playing time. But something was different. During the summer I treated passing league games as optional. In the weight room, I was not doing the lifts that would change my performance on the field, I only did the lifts I enjoyed. My desire to play was great, but my preparation did not match my desire. 
My senior year I had early success during spring football but a few setbacks impacted my playing time. At the end of high school, my football career came to a quiet close.

The next five years would be spent working a few hours and going to school on a schedule that was convenient for surfing opportunities. I did not know how to study in earnest. Youth ministry became my focus. I can be a youth pastor! I had an award winning personality and was quick on my feet …how hard could this gig be? Way harder than I was prepared to work, it turned out.

Are you sensing a trend?
When setbacks and bumps came my way I lost heart or lost interest.

The Lord has given you gifts and talents to be honed and used for His glory. HOWEVER, He expects you to use His Word and His Spirit to focus (Proverbs 3:5-7), and rejoice in Him (Psalm 34:7), and to do that which He is calling you to do (Romans 12:1-2). Then, as He works in you, there is an expectation for you to use all your God-given might to press, pull, and fight like the third monkey trying to get on the ark in order to achieve the goals He has placed in your heart (Mark 12:30).

He invites you into the process. Not for the purpose of cruising or leisure, but for work and worship and worshipping in your work. I Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Do not worry if you do not know your chosen profession right now. Focus on godly character and learning skills that will make a difference in your life and the lives of others (Matthew 5:16).

Prepare today for tomorrow (Colossians 3:23-24).

I love you, and I am confident God wants to use you now! Not just “when you grow up.”

You and I know that unless the Lord builds the house those who labor do so in vain (Psalm 127:1). But we must give our best effort. Effort that makes no excuses (Philippians 2:14). Effort that seeks to be better than yesterday (Romans 12:1-2). Effort that serves and improves others (Mark 10:43). But ultimately, effort that leads you to a closer relationship with Jesus (Luke 9:23).

I love you, Dad

Honoring Dennis - on Father's Day.


Hear, O sons, a father's instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching. Proverbs 4:1-2

Dennis lives out this passage for our children.
Not because of his own wisdom, insight, or teaching, but because he fills the minds of our children with God's precepts - the only precepts that matter.

He fills journals with notes that detail how the Lord is working in his heart and mind and dedicates each one to a child.
He sends them letters every week with biblical truths, personal anecdotes, and applicable lessons to help them focus their thinking on Scripture and draw their minds to the only thing on which they should keep their focus - CHRIST.
He shares story after story about his childhood, his teen and young adult years, and his current life as a grown man to teach them what to do, and what not to do.
When he comes across a quote or a response to a verse from a godly man he quickly passes it on to our children so they too might be encouraged and challenged and convicted to realign their thoughts, actions, and attitudes with those of Christ.
When he fails them, and when he sins, he confesses and repents and asks for their forgiveness.
He prays for them, and he prays with them.

Dennis knows that on his own he has very little to offer, but with God's Word in his hands - 
he offers EVERYTHING to our children.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
II Timothy 3:16-17

How thankful I am that the Lord gifted this man to our five sons,
Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah
and our daughter,
Ellie.
He knew they needed each other!

6.16.2017

This and that.


Dennis is coming home!
He left nine days ago to travel to India with his colleagues to train teachers and advise administrators.
The people of Chennai welcomed them with enthusiasm and, as always, Dennis found great joy engaging with a new culture, a new people, and experiencing the sights and sounds of the country.
One of the non-educational highlights of the trip was worshipping with the Christians in Chennai.
This is an excerpt from his letter that day:

Our worship in a village church was an experience that will not soon be forgotten.
As we were driving out to the church the pastor asked me if I would share from Scripture. Of course, I agreed and then realized he did not mean read a verse in the car. He meant at the service. I figured, when will I have another opportunity to share the Word of God in India? So I went for it.
The church was singing worship songs upon our arrival. Everyone was seated on the floor. The people were singing and clapping and shouting Amen and Hallelujah. 
They prayed like heaven was wide open, and they shared testimonies. 
The pastor invited me to come and share the Word, so I greeted them and thanked them for their hospitality and shared that this moment reminded me of the book of Acts when people from many diverse backgrounds heard the Word in their native tongue. 
The service, which lasted nearly 2-1/2 hours, ended with the pastor and elders praying for those who came forward. He invited us to walk to the edge of the stage and lay hands on the people who came to pray. So we did. Amazing.

How I envy these moments! What a wonder it would be to travel the world with the sole purpose of worshipping with brothers and sisters in Christ in every tribe and every nation! A small taste of what heaven will be like when we worship together before the throne of God.

We have been taking care of a Holland Lop rabbit for the past week as an experiment to see if we are
a rabbit kind of family. One of my girls is getting married and her future husband is allergic to her favorite pet, so she needs to find Charlotte a new home.
Everyone in the family (except Micah) likes her, but Ellie LOVES her!
Charlotte is sweet, potty trained, low maintenance, and loves being with people, so in terms of a pet for the Eastmans she is a great match.
The main reason we would say "yes" to the rabbit, however, is because animals are able to calm and soothe anxious, troubled hearts in ways humans cannot. As a mother with five severely dyslexic children, I am on high alert for anything that will bring peace to the frustrations and stresses they are forced to face every day, not just in education, but in life. If this soft, big-footed rabbit will provide comfort and joy to my children, then she will very soon become part of our family.

Speaking of dyslexia ...
If anyone is looking for a wonderful resource for your learning needs library, this is one of them! I have read dozens of books and articles on this topic, and have recently ramped up my research for a myriad of reasons.
This book was recommended to me by a friend at church, and it is terrific! It is the first book I have read that focuses on what dyslexics CAN do rather than what they "can't."
The key word in the title is ADVANTAGE.
The dyslexic brain is not damaged - it is different.
And the differences are wonderful!
This is not a light read. It requires focus.
Brain research, statistics, theories, and observations fill the pages, all of them highlighting the same premise: People with dyslexia think differently, therefore they DO differently. And what they do is GOOD!

~~~ Summer is here, which means BEACH NIGHTS! Actually, they are beach DAYS since we arrive by 2 pm. Yesterday was gorgeous. Sunny, clear, blue skies, a wonderful breeze, great waves, and warm water. The kids and teens threw themselves into the ocean with wild abandon, moms sat on the sand chatting away, and the families drew together near the firepit for food and conversation for the remainder of the evening.
I love this tradition!

We had the privilege of hosting our friend/brother Caleb before and after his trip to Israel and Paris.
He and Dennis have much in common as they are both teachers, Cross Fit psychos, I mean, enthusiasts <grin>, and outdoorsmen. They have as many similarities as they have differences, so they are a good pair!
Our children love him, and Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie believe he is their personal court jester.
He did workouts with them every morning, made breakfast with them, and let them inspect and try out all of his cool camping gear he brought for his trek through Yosemite.
The older boys appreciate his humor, his eclectic music savvy, and his enthusiastic willingness to engage them in both ridiculous and rational conversations.
I love him because - he is Caleb!
He is five years my junior, so when we met I was dubbed his "honorary older sister" and we spent a good decade or more in those roles - big sister and little brother. But now, as middle-aged adults, we are simply friends. The Lord has used us to encourage, pray for, and support one another, and we wouldn't have it any other way!
Thank you, Caleb, for investing in our family. It was a joy to have you with us, and we are thankful for your thoughtfulness and your friendship!


These three could not decide which of the spectacular backpacking items they liked best (blow-up LED lanterns, folding utensils, camel pack, propane burner, solar chargers, knives, tin cups ...) until Caleb strung up his tree hammock in our backyard. DING! DING! DING! We have a winner!

~~~ Happy Friday! Enjoy the weekend - take the time to be still - thoughtfully reflect on God's goodness - serve someone - clean out a closet that has been bugging you - write the note you have been putting off - and praise the Lord every day for the untold and generous blessings He pours on us each day. Though trials and temptations await us at every turn, He is a GOOD GOD, and He loves us. Even in the darkness, His faithful mercies fall on us like a steady rain ... for He knows what we need.

6.15.2017

Dennis teaches our boys about Perspective.

Dennis has been in India for the past week training teachers. Every day he sends an update via e-mail, and every day he sends a letter to our sons.
Today's letter was titled: Every now and then perspective shows up.
I share it here because - it matters.

Greetings My Sons,

When I was a kid car rides were not something my sister or myself looked forward to taking.
Age 4 - Drove from California to Florida in the backseat of a sedan.
Age 8 - Went to Hawaii and saw every fern, flower, and volcanic rock on the island...from a car window!
Age 13 - Drove to Lake Powell in the back of a station wagon listening to two tapes, The Carpenters, and George Benson.

As you can see, sometimes you have to do uncomfortable things in order to get to the destination you desire.

Over the past three days, we have had the privilege to teach teachers who come from a variety of cities and regions in India. Three men, in particular, come from West Bengal, India. West Bengal is located up north near Nepal. Chennai (where I am) is in the south. No problem, except they traveled by train!
Pull out your scorecards sports fans!
40 hours in a crowded train sitting THREE to a seat
NO reclining
NO entertainment
NO beverage service
NO air conditioning

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! #throwmefromthistrain #ifIcandothisIcandoanything

They traveled all that way in discomfort to learn how to better serve preschool children in their school. On Saturday they will begin their 40-hour journey back home.

Throughout this current trip I have been reminiscent of Philippians 2:14, "Do everything without grumbling and complaining."
This is an area in which I desire to grow. We accomplish very little when we complain and are looking for a way out rather than a way through the experience.

Who wants to ride three to a seat on a hot train with hundreds of people for the equivalent of two weeks worth of work?
Three men from West Bengal who want to make a difference in the lives of children in the school in which they teach.

Find a way to make a difference today.

I love you, Dad

6.11.2017

Not easy - but worth it!

My friend Jill and I started our summer reading series.
The topic? Marriage.
We read three chapters each week and then exchange our thoughts/convictions/responses with each other. It is always such a treat to be invited into the mind of someone as they dissect the truths of Scripture! And - incredibly encouraging!

Below are some of the quotes that really popped out in the first chapters. I hope they will inspire someone else as much as they inspired and challenged me.

➣ Chapter 1

“What if God didn’t design marriage to be “easier”? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place? What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
EXCELLENT!
And truthfully - this applies to every area of life.
Now that we have been married for over two decades, I can wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Not so sure I could have done so, or even really understood it in the early years.
Maturity and life experience definitely help us gain a proper perspective on relationships when we view them through the lens of Scripture.

“You won’t find happiness at the end of a road named selfishness.”
WOW!
Every relationship falls under this truth. 'Self’ must disappear since we are called to die to it daily.
And He (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." Luke 9:23
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 


“Marriage: a setting full of opportunities to foster spiritual growth and service to God.”
Love it!
Absolutely TRUE!

➣ Chapter 2

“Romantic love has no elasticity to it. It can never be stretched; it simply shatters. Mature love, the kind demanded of a good marriage, must stretch, as the sinful human condition is such that all of us bear conflicting emotions. Marriage reminds us of the daily reality of living as sinful human beings in a radically broken world.”
AMEN - AMEN - AMEN!

“Marriage calls us to an entirely new and selfless life.”

“… much of the dissatisfaction we experience in marriage comes from expecting too much from it.”

“God didn’t design marriage to compete with Himself but to point us to Himself.”
I LOVE this!
Marriage can become an idol. Whether doing everything to please our spouse and neglecting Christ or seeking to have all of our needs met through our spouse rather than being satisfied in Christ, marriage can easily take over the throne of our heart.

➣ Chapter 3

“As long as a couple is married, they continue to display - however imperfectly - the ongoing commitment between Christ and his church.
In a God-centered view, we preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator.
If I believe the primary purpose of marriage is to model God’s love for His church I will enter this relationship and maintain it with an entirely new motivation, one hinted at by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: “So we make it our goal to please Him.” (II Corinthians 5:9).

“The first purpose in marriage … is to please God.”

“Strong Christian marriages will be struck by lightning - sexual temptations, communication problems, frustrates, unrealized expectations - but if the marriages are heavily watered with an unwavering commitment to please God above everything else, the condition won’t be ripe for a devastating fire to follow the lightning strike.”

“Our marriages can be platforms for evangelism.”
Such a wonderful perspective!
Marriage is not just about us! It strengthens us, matures us, and refines us, but like everything else in life, the main purpose is to bring glory to God.
If I think about my daily life with Dennis as a way to glorify the Lord, I will do everything better - with more joy - because I am doing it all for HIM.

 Chapter 4

“Once we enter into the marriage relationship, we cannot love God without loving our spouse as well.”

➣ Chapter 5

“Respect is a spiritual discipline.”

“Contempt is conceived with expectations; respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude.”

“When there is mutual respect in marriage, selflessness becomes contagious.”

“Jesus, the only perfect human being to live on this earth, moved toward sinful people; He asks us to do the same, beginning with the one closest to us - our spouse.”

Terrific chapter.
Like any other godly character quality, respect for others does not just “happen.” We must be intentional, seeking to love, honor, and respect our spouse on a daily basis - through the Lord’s strength - because it will not happen on its own. How could it? Our flesh wants to satisfy ‘self’ - not die to it!
“The problem with a living sacrifice is that it’s always trying to crawl off the altar!” - Charles Swindoll

➣ Chapter 6

“A magnificent marriage begins not with knowing one another - but with knowing God.”
WHOA!
How I wish someone had taught me and Dennis what marriage really means when we were immature, foolish, and engaged young adults.
We did not have godly, older, wiser, or mature couples investing in us or sharing their own trials and triumphs with us to help prepare us for what was to come, and we suffered because of it.
But God’s grace has kept us together day after day, year after year, and we know without a doubt that our 23 years of marriage has nothing to do with us, but has everything to do with the redemptive work of a Savior who cares about our holiness far more than our happiness.

Thank You, Lord, for standing in the gap to protect our marriage when Dennis and I had absolutely no idea what we were doing! Marriage is difficult. Two selfish, sinful people trying their best to love the other one better than him/herself - and failing often. The only reason we CAN love is because You loved us first, and best. Thank You for giving me and Dennis the desire to try, day after day, to love, respect, and serve one another. It is not easy, but it is worth it. 

6.08.2017

Quote.

You can’t go back and change the beginning, 
but you can start where you are and change the ending.
- C.S. Lewis

But one thing I do:
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13

6.07.2017

This and that.

When your brother is sick it seems perfectly logical that you too should get to spend the day in bed playing an iPad!
Germs? Potentially catching his illness? Who cares! WE GET TO PLAY GAMES ALL DAY! 
And because it is summer, I am exhausted, and if the others get sick it's okay because we have no plans for the next three days - I let them!
(Thankful for families who donate their old iPads to us or my three people would still be sharing one!)

If anyone is looking for a fantastic reading curriculum - especially for students with dyslexia or other learning issues, may I suggest this one?
All About Reading
The program utilizes the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading ... and it works! 
This same program (along with some others) was used by the professional tutor who helped us with Caleb and Micah when they were first diagnosed. 
Because we cannot afford private tutoring for five children, I had to find a way to tutor them myself, at home. There are dozens of reading curriculums on the market, all claiming to be "the best," so trying to decipher which one is best for YOUR child(ren) can be overwhelming. 
Being exposed to professionals who already did the research was a wonderful blessing! They know what works, and now, after witnessing my own three children learn to read through this program when nothing else worked - I am a contented and loyal customer of the All About Reading family!

~~~ Did you know that you can enlarge the font on your iPhone and your computer? I know, I know, I am a slow technology learner. My vision seems to worsen daily, so trying to read the tiny print on any device is frustrating. It takes quite a bit of scrolling to get through a text on my phone (I set it to the largest font) but I CAN SEE! It is a large, beautiful thing!

This is what happens when you have a fun, energetic, and CREATIVE young adult who enjoys spending time with kids <Danielle Bracey!> babysit your children.
You receive a text with a dozen photos of said children sitting on top of the kitchen counter doing a puppet show with puppets they made themselves out of stuffed animals, paint stirrers, and fishing line.
She also sent a video in which you can hear Ellie (amidst the giggles and laughter) exclaim, "Send this to my mom! She will be SO happy!"
They had an absolute blast and spent the next day recreating the puppets over and over again - for hours.

Thank you, Danielle, for treating our kids as if they were your own. They have always loved you and are beyond excited when we tell them you are coming over to play! You create wonderful memories for them - and we are thankful for your impact and influence in their lives. ♥

And THIS is what happens when your husband downloads a new app that allows you to take a photo of someone and then manipulate it to make them look like a baby, a teenager, or a 90-year-old.
Everyone wants to see themselves! And then laugh at each other.
Dennis was playing with it before dinner, so he put it away while we ate, but three minutes after everyone was dismissed and I was washing dishes, I returned to the living room to find this scene before me.
I love seeing them laugh together!

~~~ When people ask me what we do during the summer, and I respond, "School!" surprised and/or horrified expressions generally follow.
We tried summers of leisure when Micah and Luke were young and quickly learned that it does not work for our family. Our kids need structure, boundaries, and down time to thrive. Without them, they fall apart.
Two weeks ago I surprised Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie with an entire week off. They did nothing but play, eat, and watch movies. On Monday morning the following week, all three of them looked at me and asked, "Can we PLEASE do school this week? We are tired of doing nothing!"
I laughed out loud and thought of this wonderful quote by Mrs. March in Little Women.
"You may try your experiment for a week and see how you like it. I think by Saturday night you will find that all play and no work is as bad as all work and no play."
Thank you, Mrs. March!

Speaking of work, Ellie asked if there were any extra chores she could do for me. I could not think of anything at the time, so she took it upon herself to find areas in the house that needed attention.
She chose the stove. Everything was removed, and then I noticed her putting on giant plastic gloves.
"Why are you wearing those?"
"Because I don't want the cleaner to touch my hands!"
Whatever floats your boat, babe!
Enjoy your chores!

~~~ I wrote this after Micah and I returned from a quick trip to Seattle to spend the weekend with friends who graciously invited us into their home and helped us navigate through some important issues for Micah's education and future.
The exchange makes me laugh every time I think about it, so I hope it will make someone else smile too!

(Scene: Dennis drives Michelle and Micah to the airport to drop them off for a flight to Seattle.)
Michelle: Having all five kids to yourself for three days will be good. It will help you understand my life.
Dennis: I appreciate everything you do.
Michelle: I know, but I said UNDERSTAND what I do.
Dennis: My understanding MAKES me appreciate you.
Michelle: No. (eye roll)

(Scene: Fast forward three days. Two hours after Michelle arrives home.)
Dennis: How is it that you don't cuss?
😂😅😂😅😂😅😂😅😂
NOW he understands!

6.06.2017

A lesson learned late - but never forgotten!

How I wish someone had challenged me with this truth when I was a teenager and young adult.
I used to read dozens of books each year - for pleasure. I would stay up reading, bleary-eyed until 2 am, but would not rise early to read my Bible.
It was not until I was almost 30 that the Lord chose to thwap me over the head using a loud voice to get my attention because I had refused to listen to His still, small voice.

A group of my peers and I were reading a historical/biblical fiction trilogy, and we talked of little else. Our enthusiasm for the plot, the characters, and the drama was palpable. Until ...
One day we were at an event with our pastor's wife and decided we should invite her into our new world of literary excitement. She listened to us rave about the book, and when we asked her if she would like to read it with us she said, "I'm sorry, I will not be able to do that."
"Why not?" we asked incredulously.
"Well, I have learned that when I start reading a book that captures my attention, my imagination, my emotions, and my time, the Lord receives nothing because I have given everything away - to a book. If I cannot keep Scripture first because books written by men compete for my heart, I must refuse them. Even good books."

I will never forget her words, and they have convicted me many times since then.
I am an unashamed bibliophile. I LOVE books.
But there was a three-year span when the Lord would not let me touch a book that was not Scripture.
Spurgeon? Taylor? ten Boom? Elliott? Miller? Forget it. The Lord kept challenging me, "Michelle. These are MEN. They created their words out of Mine. Read My Word. Search My truths. Trust My promises. My Word is sufficient. Let it lead you, encourage you, comfort you, and make you wise. It is all you need."

I spent three years reading nothing but Scripture, and never once did I fall asleep crying because I missed out on the latest compilation of Spurgeon's sermons. I was FULL, and I was satisfied!
My only regret - was not learning the lesson sooner.

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

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.

They are more desirable than gold - yes, than much fine gold! 
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. 
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned. 
In keeping them there is great reward! Psalm 19
The Christian has discovered one book truer and more precious than all the rest together. Let the Bible be to us the book of books - the one book in all the world whose every verse is wisdom.
In studying it, be sure to take it for what it really is - the revelation of the thoughts of God, given us in the words of God. Knowing that we have divine thoughts embodied in divine words - we sit down to the study of the heavenly volume, assured that we shall find the perfection of wisdom in all of its teachings.

Let us read and re-read the Scriptures - meditating on them day and night.
They never grow old, they never lose their sap, they never run dry.

Though it is right and profitable to read other books, if they are true and good - yet beware of reading too many. Do not let man's book thrust God's book into a corner! Do not let commentaries smother the text - nor let the good, shut out the best.

Let your reading be always select - and whatever you read, begin with seeking God's blessing on it.

But see that your relish for the Bible is above every other enjoyment. The moment you begin to feel greater relish for any other book - lay it down until you have sought deliverance from such a snare, and obtained from the Holy Spirit a more intense relish, and a keener appetite for the Word of God!

"Your words were found, and I ate them. And Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart!" Jeremiah 15:16

~ Horatius Bonar, "Follow the Lamb" 1861