Happy Birthday, Ellie!

Seven years of life, Ellie!
The Lord has given you 2,555 days to enjoy on earth.
You have been loved, enjoyed, appreciated, and wanted since the day you were born, and you will be wanted, appreciated, loved, and enjoyed for the rest of your days.

You are full of energy and passion and intensity.
You are wild and free.
You hate boundaries and limitations.
You thrive on independence.
We pray that the Lord will chisel each of these qualities into strengths to be used for His Kingdom.
We pray they will be used to stir others into action when you share your passion for God, for His people, and for His purposes.

Your greatest strengths are also your greatest weaknesses, sweet daughter.
Passion-filled, independent, intense people find it difficult to submit, to yield, and to obey - even when they know they should. Passion can quickly transform into pride, and independence can morph into narcissism. "I can do this." "I don't need anyone." "I am all I need."
Yet Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches; apart from Me you can do nothing."
And God opposes the proud.

But Ellie Ruth, if you combine all of your strengths with humility, bowing your knee before the Father, offering everything you have and everything you are to Him - there is no telling what He can do with such a woman!
Elisabeth Elliott, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Alward, Corrie ten Boom ... names we know well. Women who faced adversity, pain, suffering, and tragedies with astonishing faith and strength. They were not perfect, they made mistakes, and they sinned just like the rest of us, but the Lord chose to set them apart for work that other women could not do. Even they did not always believe they could accomplish His purpose for their lives, and they wondered and wavered, but they kept moving forward with Christ - instead of forging ahead in their own way with their own plans.
And that is the difference.
You can, in your stubbornness, run ahead of God because "you know best." He will even let you go. But, daughter ... it is such an exhausting way to live. Every time you run ahead you will find yourself standing alone. Then you must run back. Back to follow the steady footsteps of the Savior who knows exactly where you need to go, how long it will take, and what you will do when you arrive.

Anyone can lead, Ellie.
Only the humble are willing to follow.

Be a follower of Jesus and an encourager of the saints.
As you run hard after Jesus, cheer, comfort, and support those running beside you.
You may have a faster stride than some, but that doesn't mean you should leave them behind. Pull them along with you. Show them how much more they have to give. And then - let those who have been running longer pull you.

I love you, Ellie Ruth, and I know the Lord has something specific in mind for your future. He did not make you this strong this young without purpose. One day He will overwhelm you with a specific passion, calling out, "This is it! This is what I have been preparing you for, daughter! Are you ready?"
And my prayer, sweet Ellie, is that you will answer with the same conviction with which the prophet Isaiah responded, "Here am I, send me!"

You are a strong, sweet, unmoveable, thoughtful, affectionate girl, and I am thankful the Lord chose to allow me to be your mother. He knew you needed me - and He knew I needed you.

Happy 7th Birthday, Ellie.
❤ I love you. ❤


The two best things we can offer. The Savior - and ourselves.

Giving of oneself to care for God’s people means sharing one’s life and home with others. An open home is a sign of a loving, sacrificial, serving spirit. A lack of hospitality is a sure sign of selfish, lifeless, loveless Christianity. - Alexander Strauch

Had I read this quote 15-20 years ago it would have made me cry because I was embarrassed to invite people to our "imperfect" home. I thought people cared about landscape and flooring and furniture and decor. I thought people only appreciated fancy buffets overflowing with food and drink. I thought they needed things to do or they would be bored and consider us terrible hosts.
You see, I had confused the act of hospitality - with entertainment.

The Lord had to teach me that entertainment can be found anywhere, and offered by anyone.
Hospitality, however, is purposeful, intentional, and an act of love.

First, He placed a wonderful little book in my hands. I cannot recall the title or the author, but I remember the author's words as if I read them yesterday. The book was written during the peak of Martha Stewart's rise to fame when women were running themselves ragged trying to create the perfect table setting, centerpiece, Easter egg designs, and homemade Christmas ornaments. Joy was being sucked out of hosting. By the time the hostess finished etching her family's likeness into the pumpkins lining the staircase and hand-stamping every piece of wrapping paper, she had nothing left to give to the people sitting on her couch because she was exhausted. The guests came to spend time with family and friends. They did not arrive hoping to find a personal cheese wheel in the shape of their initials made from the milk of the goats roaming in the backyard.

Now, for some, the descriptions above cause their eyes to light up and make their fingers itch to pin more ideas to their Pinterest board for future events. "Personalized cheese wheels?!? I am so doing that!" They are creative, see beauty in everything, and love details. They whistle a happy tune while painting the resurrection scene on twelve dozen cookies, hum while carving personalized bath soaps for each guest, and twirl through the house while stringing laced garland cut and sewn together from every wedding dress worn in the family. And then, when the front door swings open the guests are greeted by a smiling hostess and a warm hug, causing every person who walks through the door to feel it was all done - just for them. What a gift! And what a joy for those who enter their homes!

This focus of that little book was simple. It does not matter whether you live in a mansion or a shack, have $20,000 worth of antique furniture or stains on your carpet and couch, or serve filet mignon on china dishes or grilled cheese and pickles on paper plates - INVITE PEOPLE INTO YOUR HOME.
Why? Because we were created for relationships. We need connection. Where we are, what it looks like, and what we eat or drink does not matter. We do not need aesthetics to build relationships.
We need each other

This shift in thinking changed everything for me in terms of the purpose behind hospitality. Sadly, however, the Lord still had another obstacle to tackle. My pride. We lived in apartments or rental homes in which we could not choose the paint, the carpet, or anything else. We were stuck with "what was" rather than what we wanted. And I was embarrassed. Whenever someone entered our home for the first time I would declare, "This is a rental! We did not choose the mauve carpet or the glittered stucco!" I worried that they would judge me based on my hand-me-down furniture, the 70's tile, or the meager snacks sitting on the counter. Instead of pouring all of my energy into my guests, I directed it toward my fear of man and my pride.
And then Dennis stepped in.
I do not remember the genesis of the conversation, but his words are etched into my brain. After a whining/complaining/rant about how ugly the house was, how we could not afford to change it, etc. etc., he looked me square in the eye and said, "Michelle. That is ENOUGH. You may not like this house and you may not like our budget, but your attitude is deplorable and you need to repent. The Lord provided this house for us, with a rent price well under market value so we can afford it. He allowed us to live next door to the high school so I can walk to work and we can live with only one car. He continually provides for all of our needs and even some of our wants. So instead of whining, how about giving THANKS for the countless blessings that surround you?"
Rebuke: Heard and Received
I never complained about that house (or any other place we lived) again.

The last thing the Lord did to settle this lesson once and for all happened more than a decade later.

The Lord sat me in front of an older woman at a booth in Panera Bakery. I was struggling with rejection and people-pleasing and asked her to speak truth to me. She did. She leaned across the table with a serious countenance and asked, "Why do you keep chasing people who don't want you? Instead of trying to become something different to everyone just to make them happy for the moment, you need to focus on the people the LORD drops in front of you. The Good Samaritan did not go looking for someone to save. He saved the man he tripped over in the road. Pay attention to the ones God places in your path, Michelle, and then serve them."
That was the night the Lord revealed that hospitality blends beautifully - with ministry.

Good hospitality is making your home a hospital. The idea is that friends and family and wounded and weary people come to your home and leave helped and refreshed. - Kevin DeYoung
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25

I used to think that hospitality meant impressing people. But I was wrong. Hospitality is about making people feel welcome and wanted and treating them with the same love given to us by the Savior. They do not show up on our doorstep hoping to be entertained and impressed. They knock on our door because they want us. And outside of taking them to the feet of Jesus, that is the best gift we have to offer - ourselves.


A lesson I need EVERY day.

Several weeks ago a young woman sent me a text that read, "Do your children fight?" I was quite glad my mouth was not full or food or liquid because it would have been spat across my phone when I started choking while laughing. She is a fun, no-nonsense kind of woman, so I responded with great sarcasm. "What? My children are perfect! They serve each other all day, think of others before themselves, and continually sacrifice their own needs for their siblings. In fact, they do not sin at all!" 😜😂😅😄😜😂

We continued our conversation for quite some time, talking about the realities of little sinners living with each other, the need for structure, and the importance of planned activities throughout the day to stave off boredom. (As a wise man once said, "If you let these kids get bored you deserve what happens to you!")

The longer our conversation lasted, however, I was bothered that we had only discussed the practical pieces of parenting young children but had not addressed the spiritual component. We can create schedules, plan outings, invite other children over for play dates, prepare activities, and make time for quiet moments and naps, but the problem is, all of these address what our children DO, but have nothing to do with the heart.

A few days before she sent the text, I had been searching for verses to memorize with Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie. The topic? Peaceful, loving, selfless relationships.
Dennis and I love each other, we love our children, and our children love each other. We have a happy family, we enjoy one another, we live life together, and we support and serve each other when there is a need. But - we are also eight sinners living under the same roof, and we do not always do so successfully.
Our children do not always live in peace. They do not always think of their siblings before themselves. They can be quick to argue and to blame. They provoke one other. They are impatient, want to be 'first,' and argue about things that have absolutely no importance in life. They can watch a movie or play a game, laugh and enjoy each other, and then WHAM! Someone is being held down in a wrestling move on the floor screaming for help, or someone is crying because so-and-so stole their favorite Lego piece. Dennis and I have also been known to engage in a skirmish or two. (note the sarcasm)

Because of this reality in our family, and because all of my "creative ideas" for sibling harmony were not working as I had hoped (imagine), I went to the place I should have visited first - Scripture. There are literally dozens of verses that speak to the heart of selfishness, rudeness, provoking someone to anger, and pride, so I selected the ones that were most fitting for us as a family, printed out two copies, placing one on our cupboard so they are visible to every family member, and placing the other in our stack of reading books so we can read them aloud and memorize them together each morning.

As the conversation came to a close with my young friend, I quickly copied and pasted these verses into our text thread so we could leave each other with God's Word as our focus. And then, I read each verse over and over to remind myself that living in peaceful, loving, selfless relationships is not a lesson for children. It is a lesson for all of us, and it is a lesson I need to review - every day.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Let us, therefore, make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Romans 14:19

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3,4

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31, 32

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I Corinthians 13:4-7

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. II Corinthians 13:11


What will he see when I am old?

When a friend asks if you would like to read books about marriage with her over the summer, make sure you are prepared for what is to come!

I thought reading books about marriage would be fairly painless since we are in a good place right now. Alas, I was wrong. It is simply impossible to look into the mirror God holds before your face without seeing how short you fall when you compare yourself to His standards.

Dennis and I have always been willing to share the truth about our marriage. We struggled more than was necessary for the first few years because we were foolish and immature in every way. We bumbled our way through another decade without accountability or guidance. BUT GOD, through His faithfulness, saved us from ourselves and taught us how to live with each other with understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, and grace.
We are not the same people we were when we said "I do" (praise the Lord!), but we still have a lot to learn about "outdoing one another in honor."

Great marriages do not just happen. Great marriages exist because both people are willing to give the marriage everything they've got, and when they have nothing to give, they can admit it, and ask for grace.
As long as we are alive, we will sin. We will make mistakes, disappoint, hurt, and offend one another, and misinterpret and make assumptions - instead of giving each other the benefit of the doubt and assuming the best. (Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:7) It is easy to bear and endure all things when you love each other, like each other, and life is going as planned. But what happens when this is not the case? What happens when selfishness replaces sacrifice? What happens when the outside pressures of life press so hard against you that you both lose sight of what matters? Rebellious children - Disapproving parents - Strained friendships - Sickness - Financial stresses - Unmet expectations ... will you bear with one another and endure those things together? Confessing, forgiving, and loving one another when you are at your worst?

Dennis and I have seen each other's worst. More than once. We have been gracious and forgiving toward one another, and we have been spiteful and mean toward one another. We always make up, but we do not always do it quickly. We forgive, but sometimes we let bitterness take root before we do. We overlook offenses as Scripture commands, but sometimes choose to make one a hill to die on. In short - we are two siners trying to live with each other in a way that glorifies God - but the only time we succeed is when we are fully immersed in Scripture, prayer, and fellowship with other believers because it is only then that we are able to let go of Self and outdo the other in honor.

Neither one of us ever has, or ever will claim that we have it all together when it comes to our marriage (or any other topic for that matter). We praise God that He did not let us stay the immature 20-something's we were when we pledged our vows to one another, and now we beg Him to continue to mature us, refine us, and strip away more of Self every single day because it is the one thing that keeps us from being the godly husband or wife He calls us to be. Self or the Savior - it is a daily choice. We chose Self far too many times the first decade of our marriage, so our desire is to deny Self more and more so that when we are an old, wrinkled, shrunken couple we can look at each other and declare, "Hey! You look like Jesus! I hardly see any of YOU!"

I pray the following quotes and truths from this wonderful book (chapter five) will challenge you. They struck a blow to my conscience and revealed how very much I need to grow as a wife and as a woman of God.
Thank You, Lord! These words are timely and good. Now, please give me the humility to make the changes needed so I can love and serve Dennis better, and in a way that honors You.

You simply can't continually rehearse in your heart all someone's perceived wrongs against you and grow in affection toward him or her.

No change takes place in a marriage that does not begin with confession.
Confession is the doorway to growth and change in your relationship. It is essential. It is fundamental. Without it you are relegated to a cycle of repeated and deepening patterns of misunderstanding, wrong, and conflict.

It is a grace to know right from wrong.
Accurate diagnosis always precedes effective cure.

It is a grace to understand the concept of indwelling sin.
One of the most tempting fallacies for us ... is to believe that our greatest problems exist outside us rather than inside us.
You know that you have been gifted with grace when you are able to say, "My greatest marital problem is me."

It is a grace to have a properly functioning conscience.
It is a perverse ability to that all sinners have - to become progressively comfortable with things that should shock, grieve, and embarrass us.

It is a sign of God's grace when our consciences are sensitive and our hearts are grieved, not at what the other person is doing, but at what we have become.

It is a grace to see ourselves with accuracy.
Few things prevent change more than a distorted sense of self. Few things are more needed than eyes to see ourselves with clarity and accuracy.

It is a grace to be willing to listen and consider criticism and rebuke.
It takes grace to be ready to listen and willing to hear.
It takes grace to quiet our mind, to focus our attention, and to settle our heart so that we can actually receive the help that God is offering us in the moment of unexpected confrontation.

Healthy relationships have two essential character qualities:
the humility of approachability and
the courage of loving honesty.

It is a grace not to be paralyzed by regret.
It's hard enough to consider our present weakness and failure. It is even harder to consider the fruit that weakness and failure have produced over the years. So, rather than giving in to the temptation to run and hide, we need to run where help can be found.
As we face regret, we bask in forgiveness and then turn to live in a new way, embracing the power that is ours as children of God.

Daily Habits of a Confession Lifestyle
We will be lovingly honest
We will be humble when exposed
We will not excuse
We will be quick to admit wrongs
We will listen and examine
We will greet confession with encouragement
We will be patient, persevering, and gentle in the face of wrong
We will not return to the past
We will put our hope in Christ

When the shadow of the cross hangs over our marriage, we live and relate differently. We are no longer afraid to look at ourselves. We are no longer surprised by our sin. We no longer have to work to present ourselves as righteous.
We say goodbye to finger-pointing and self -excusing. We abandon our record of wrongs. We settle issues quickly.
And we do all these things because we know that everything we need to confess has already been forgiven, and what is needed for every new step we will take has already been supplied.
We can live in the liberating light of humility and honesty, a needy and tender sinner living with a needy and tender sinner, no longer defensive and no longer afraid, together growing nearer to one another as we grow to be more like Him.

Quotes. On GRACE.

I came across these terrific quotes about grace while preparing for a devotion.
Sometimes a few words are more impactful than a thousand words could ever be.

"A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than 
he can eat enough today to last him for the next six months, 
nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come. 
We are permitted to draw upon God's store of grace from day to day as we need it."
- Dwight L. Moody

"Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces. Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions.”
- Matthew Henry

"Christian, remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity." 
- Charles Spurgeon

"God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute." 
- Oswald Chambers


Celebrating a soon-to-be BRIDE!

Today I had the honor of being a part of a bridal shower for one of my sweet girls ~ Karen.
All of COMMITTED was there to celebrate her and we enjoyed a delightful day sipping tea, consuming scones, salads, and sandwiches, being entertained by the lovely hostesses, watching Karen open a myriad of gifts to help make their new house a home, and rejoicing over the beauty of marriage.
It was a fanTAStic day!
The Lord has drawn Brett and Karen together to love, honor, and cherish one another until death parts them, and it is a privilege to be invited into their relationship to encourage, support, challenge, and love them as individuals and as a couple.
The Lord formed a friendship between me and Karen almost two years ago when she sat on my couch for her first COMMITTED night. She was willing to share the truths buried deep within her heart, ask hard questions, and say, "I need more. Will you meet with me?" And since then, both of us have rejoiced together, cried together, prayed together, and loved one another with sincerity.

Because of this, it was an absolute joy to have been asked to give a short devotion at her shower before she dove into her pile of bridal gifts. Trying to sum up the character of a person in the span of only a few minutes is quite difficult, so I asked the Lord to give me something succinct that would match the need of the moment, and He immediately reminded me of Karen's own words when describing the theme she wanted for her wedding. 

I want to share it here because though written for a specific person, the truth applies to every one of us, and sometimes we need to be reminded how much we are loved by an amazing God.

● grace ●

It is the theme of Brett and Karen’s wedding - because they want the truth of what grace means to touch every part of their day.

When you look up the word "grace" in the dictionary, it may as well have a photo of Karen next to it!
Dictionary Definition: simple elegance or refinement of movement
Synonyms: elegance, poise, gracefulness, courtesy, decorum, tact

While I think we would all agree that this word accurately describes our sweet friend, the dictionary definition is not the definition that matters to her.
What grips her is the Biblical definition of grace: the free and unmerited favor of God
Synonyms: approval, acceptance, esteem, regard

This definition matters, because no matter how hard we try, no matter what we do or say, we will never receive from any human relationship the amazing and perfect grace offered only by a holy, wonderful, loving, and merciful God.
We will never make everyone happy, we will never meet all of their desires or demands, and we will never be “enough.” This is disheartening, but without something unattractive to measure against, beauty does not shine as brightly. 
We will never be enough as we are to satisfy any person - but we ARE enough to satisfy a God who willingly sacrificed His own Son to save us though we did absolutely nothing to deserve it.

I can speak confidently for Karen when I say that this is the truth that drives her.
The same God who created this world, parted the Red Sea, knocked down the walls of Jericho, healed the blind, and raised the dead … this same God looks at Karen Ann Rockwell with eyes full of love and says, “I approve. You are my beloved daughter, and you are enough - just as you are.”

And that - is grace.


I wanted the last thought to come from the man you are going to marry, so I asked Brett how he would connect the word “grace” to you, his future bride. This is what he said …

Karen has said from the beginning that she wants the theme of the wedding to be grace, not because we are going to have the perfect marriage, but because we are going to be two sinners coming together for the rest of our lives where showing grace to each other is vital to the integrity of our relationship.
She has a relationship with Jesus who died for her despite her sin and brokenness. She recognizes that sacrifice and strives to show other people the same grace that was freely given to her.
Karen has a heart to serve others. She sacrifices her personal time to take care of kids in the nursery. She volunteers to babysit so that her friends can have a date night. She went to England to help spread the gospel to lost, broken people.
With me, she has forgiven me for things I have done that broke her heart. Yet she still wants to marry me and spend a lifetime with another sinner.
I think this shows how beautiful she is on the inside, that she is not choosing to marry me because we share happy feelings about each other. Instead, she is choosing to marry me because she is willing to be shaped by God into the woman He created her to be, even if it means showing grace to people who let her down.
Our marriage is not going to be perfect. We are both going to disappoint each other. However, I am lucky and undeserving to be marrying a woman who is more focused on loving others despite their faults, than she is at pointing them out.


This and that.

It's Friday!
Yesterday we spent the day at the beach with a few dozen people from our church family enjoying beautiful sunshine, blue skies, and a lovely breeze. Conversations - both thoughtful and hysterical - and a chance to get to know some sisters I only see for a few minutes between services. Sunset, firepit, good food ... it was a wonderful way to spend a summer day!
And now it is Friday. A whole weekend ahead filled with fun and simple things.
A bridal shower for one of my girls who will soon be a WIFE!
A leadership meeting to hear about the new direction of our youth group due to the Lord providing a new youth pastor to lead us in the years to come.
Family night so we can spend time together before Dennis and the older boys leave for summer camp.
Meals, naps, movies, outside play, reading great books, talking, laughing, worship on Sunday ...
it is going to be a great weekend!

Last week, our G3 showed up with a gift bag. Inside were three brightly-colored T-shirts with the phrase
"He is able" written across the front.
Attached was a lovely card which read:
"Every time our littles wear these we will be reminded that God is ABLE to help, cure, and heal any challenges they face." - Julie
What a thoughtful and precious gift!
And full of TRUTH!
Our God IS able.
And He is always with us, taking care of us, meeting our needs, and giving us the strength we desperately need to face the challenges before us.
I love this photo. There is so much more than meets the eye, and every detail is a reason to praise God for who He is, what He has done, and what He WILL do.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

~~~~ So, did you know you can call 911 from your cell phone when the screen is locked?I did not, but I do NOW!
Would you like to know how I found out?
I was sound asleep in bed Monday morning when I heard my cell phone jingling around 7:30 am. The caller was unidentified, however, so I did not answer, even when they called repeatedly four times in the space of 30 minutes.
Finally, I answered just to say, "Please stop calling me!"
"Hello. This is Stephanie from the Orange Police Department. We received a 911 call and show your location at xyz address. Are you okay?"
"Um, yes. I am comfortable in my own bed. I did not call."
"We received a 911 emergency call from this phone so we just wanted to check in and make sure you were safe."
"Thank you for your kindness and concern. I am just fine."
After a short investigation, I discovered that it was ELLIE who made the call. She said innocently, "I just pressed the 'emergency' button."
Aye, aye aye! Never a dull moment in this house!

~~~~ If you are ever looking for a fun, unique, and delicious place to celebrate a significant moment of life, we highly recommend Texas de Brazil.
I will not even try to describe it because in order to fully enjoy the experience you need to arrive without any preconceived notions.
I will simply say this: I thought I knew what gluttony was before we went, and now I KNOW.
Meat lovers - this place is for you!

Remember when I shared that it is difficult to determine the sex of rabbits? And that a trained veterinarian revealed that Charlotte was actually a boy?
Funny story ...
Karen (his original owner) took Charlie to a new vet for his "procedure," but when the vet began prepping him he said,
"I cannot snip him! HE - is a GIRL!"
Are you kidding me?!?
So now we know for sure.
Charlotte was, is, and always will be - a GIRL!
And we love her!

~~~~ I love this quote.
"Learn the promises of God in advance. When the time of crisis or darkness comes, it is too late to start learning them. Store up the Word of God, like a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter; for the winter-time of life will surely come when you will need God's promises to act as an anchor for your soul." - Sinclair Ferguson
How true this is! And how much it pushes me to ask the Lord to give me a greater desire to read His Word, and a passion to memorize it!

Even though you beg for Ipad time because you only get to play games a few hours per week, sometimes you surrender it to your older brother because he has more experience and can get you to higher levels on games so you can earn better prizes! HA HA!
This rarely happens since Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie look forward to their screen time with great anticipation, but every once in a while they ask Caleb to "help them" and he gladly partakes in the process. Thanks, Caleb!

~~~~ Happy weekend, everyone!
I hope your days are filled with joy and rest and many opportunities to invest in others as the Lord shows you the needs that surround you every day.


A small book filled with encouraging truth. (Part II)

Psalm 13 was the focus of chapter two, titled, "How Long, Lord?"

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
   How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
   lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
   But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
   I will sing to the Lord,
because He has dealt bountifully with me.

➤ "As he put pen to paper, David had already begun to overcome discouragement by identifying its causes and staring it in the face: Has God forgotten me permanently? Is God hiding His face from me? Why do I wrestle with my thoughts and have sorrow in my heart every day? Why does my enemy keep on triumphing over me?Do you see the importance of asking them, and writing them down? David now has something to work on. Before, he was simply fighting aimlessly in the dark."

➤ "Mind and emotions are frequently confused when we find ourselves overtaken by distress and disoriented. That is part of our problem: we think with our feelings, or more accurately, we let our feelings do our thinking for us."

➤ "In the very act of lamenting that God had deserted him, he is at the beginning of a spiritual breakthrough.
For one thing, he is actually talking, face-to-face, to the God whom he accuses of forgetting him and hiding from him!
While he admits that he is thinking with his feelings, the fact that he recognizes it indicates that a biblical mind is already at work.

➤ "When we begin to speak to God about the fact that He has deserted us, we are no longer at our lowest point; the tide has turned; we are on our way up again.
To tell God that He has deserted you; to know that you have been thinking with your emotions - these are marks of life, not of death, of hope and not of despair. Why you are even speaking to God Himself about them as though you know he cares!'

Consider me; answer me; light up my eyes. (verse 3)
"What David is doing is asking God to give the blessings He has promised; he is urging Him to be faithful to His own words, to do what He has said."

➤ "Learn the promises of God in advance. When the time of crisis or darkness comes, it is too late to start learning them. Store up the Word of God, like a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter; for the winter-time of life will surely come when you will need God's promises to act as an anchor for your soul."

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8
"Do you see what David was doing? He was thinking about God's promises with his mind, rather than concentrating on his feelings about his situation.
At last, he was holding on to something outside of himself. Before, his whole attention had been fixed on the turmoil within his heart; he was looking at the storm.
The storm was still around him, but now he was secured to the anchor of God's promise and was safe."

➤ But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. (verses 5 and 6)
"David's recovery has begun. He had developed an obsession, albeit understandably, with himself and his own thoughts and feelings. Now a change has taken place. He is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to lose his sense of self-absorption."

➤ "It should not surprise us that this transition took place in the context of prayer. Have you ever been so discouraged that you have had to drag yourself out of bed for a prayer time at church ... or even have personal devotions? Then ... you have found yourself taken up with the needs of the church, the work of the Kingdom, and the glory of God.
You came weary and discouraged; you left invigorated and exultant.
God was with you, and you knew it."

Lord! Use the cries and sadness of Your servant David to encourage and inspire us to look UP when everything around is falling apart and we cannot see any light shining through the darkness. Thank You that we can trust in Your love, rejoice in Your salvation, and sing to You - even when the trials continue to roll around and threaten to envelop us. You ARE a strong anchor, and when we run to You, You are SAFE.


Quote. The importance of reading Scripture.

"Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long!" Psalm 119:97

It is well to meditate upon the things of God - because it is only by pondering the Scriptures that we get the real nutriment out of them. A man who hears many sermons - is not necessarily well-instructed in the faith. We may read so many religious books that we overload our brains, and they may be unable to work under the weight of the great mass of paper and of printer's ink.

The man who reads but one book, and that book his Bible, and then meditates much upon it - will be a better scholar in Christ's school than he who merely reads hundreds of books, and does not meditate at all!

Oh, that we might get into the very heart of the Word of God - and get that Word into ourselves!

As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord - not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it until we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetic expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models - and, what is better still, your spirit is redolent with the words of the Lord!

"Your words were found, and I devoured them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart!" Jeremiah 15:16

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful!" 

Joshua 1:8

- Charles Spurgeon


24 years - and counting!

24 years.

How far we have come since the day we said, "I do."
It is only because of the grace of a Heavenly Father who carried and pushed us through the difficult, frustrating, painful, sad, and sinful moments of marriage when we had neither the strength nor the desire to keep on going that we can declare with confidence, "I love you, and I am in this forever."
On our own, we would have given up many times.
On our own, we would have allowed outside pressures to destroy us as a couple.
On our own, we would have allowed selfishness and pride keep us from being faithful and committed to one another physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
On our own, our marriage would be a complete failure.

Every day He pours new mercies over us.
He forgives our sins against one another and tosses them into the deepest part of the ocean
to be remembered no more.
He faithfully turns us from selfishness so we can serve each other instead of serving ourselves.
He continually holds up a mirror to show us who we really are, removing all blind spots, correcting our assumptions and pride so we can look at each other through clear, grace-filled eyes.
He loves us as we are so we can learn to love each other the same way.

We are not perfect.
We do not always respond to God's goodness immediately or with joy.
We do not always stop our ugly words before they tumble out of our mouths, nor do we run to each other with confessions and a plea for forgiveness every time we offend one another.
But we want to.
We desire to be a couple who draws others in, not because we are wonderful, but because they see something real, something honest, and something genuine about us.
What we want them to see - is Christ.
Which means each of us has to pursue Him like a drowning man gasping for a breath of air - with a relentless, all-consuming, singular focus - so that we look much more like Him than we look like us.

On our own, Dennis and I have nothing to offer each other but the most meager affection.
With Christ? The possibilities are endless.

Thank You, Dennis, for 24 years of loving an imperfect, selfish, rough-edged woman in need of much forgiveness and grace. You have served, comforted, corrected and rebuked, encouraged, supported, and challenged me in unique ways, and I know that I am better because of the way the Lord has used you to refine me day by day, year by year. I love you ~ Michelle


Celebrating 75 years of LIFE!

Last night we celebrated my Mom's 75th Birthday!
A night of family and friends and FUN!

Nonna and (almost all of) her grandchildren.

The last 33 years of her life have been spent with this man by her side.
How thankful we are that Bill is a part of our family!

Doug, Stephanie, and Douglas ...
Bill brought Stephanie into our lives, she brought Doug and Douglas - and we are grateful!

Steven and CC and their family came down to celebrate.
Every family event is better when they are with us!

The celebration included Mom and Bill's Shepherd Group and a few dear friends.
They are a lively, engaging group, quick to laugh and faithful friends to our parents.
Some have known my mom since college, some for the past three decades, and some just a few years. But regardless of the length of friendship, they all share life together - the good, the bad, the difficult, and the delightful. We have watched them serve one another through sickness, trauma, heartache, financial struggles, trials with children and grandchildren, and personal sorrows.
They cry together as much as they laugh ... just as the body of Christ was made to do.
Thank you, everyone, for joining in the celebration. Your presence made a difference!

The grandchildren wrote a few things they love about their "Nonna" and shared them with her and the guests at the party. (Speaking in birth order, youngest to oldest.)

♥She gives nice hugs, she dresses nice. Nonna is a princess. - Olivia
♥She gets us Lego sets sometimes - Lego Nonna!, she has a very nice house that she shares with us when we visit, she loves us very much. - Roman
♥She takes me to Disneyland, she loves me, she is kind. - Ellie
♥She lets us do fun things, she's very nice, she makes awesome spaghetti. - Lorenzo
♥She lets us spend time at her house, she is fun to be with, she lets me buy Lego's. - Isaiah
♥She hugs me when I'm sad, she takes me on dates, she is funny. - Josiah
♥She's fun to talk to, she lets me work at her house to earn money, and I like watching fun shows and sports with her. - Caleb
♥I appreciate her love of travel, her love of culture, and her energy. - Luke
♥I love the fudge that you make every Christmas, I appreciate your help with my homework projects, and you are a wonderful and loving grandma. - Douglas
♥She is a fantastic conversationalist, a loving grandmother, a caring friend, and an interesting thinker. - Micah
♥There are so many things I love about Nonna! I like that she is kind, loving and smart. - Kyle

The night ended with two activities.
The first, "1942 Jeopardy!" Four teams had to answer questions about politics, cost of living, entertainment, sports, and science - all based on statistics from 1942. It was loud, crazy, and fun!

The second activity was a game called "How Well Do You Know Me?" 
25 personal questions about Janet Simcic.
The people who have known her the longest did the best in this game, and it sparked much conversation about how little people really know about each other. One of her friends declared, "From now on - we are talking about these things at our weekly group coffee dates!"

The party was a success, and our family was thankful that we were able to be together to celebrate the 75 years of life gifted to our mom/stepmom/mother-in-law/grandmother/wife by the giver of life ... an amazing, creative, and wonderful God.
❤ Happy Birthday, Mom! ❤
We love you!


A small book filled with encouraging truth. (Part I)

Wow. This book is fantastic.
I have already read six chapters, but this was the first week my friend and I exchanged our notes, on chapter one. 
Wonderful truths are packed into the first six pages!

I pray these quotes will provide encouragement and hope to anyone who is discouraged, sad, isolated, suffering, or weak and weary.
Friend, you are NOT alone.
There is an amazing God reaching toward you with an outstretched hand, gently calling, "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." 
Matthew 11: 28, 29
Will you take His hand?

➤ " ... when we are discouraged, or face difficulties, or feel God has deserted us, our great temptation is to turn in upon ourselves. We lose our sense of perspective, our objectivity.
We need to be brought out of ourselves and have our gaze redirected from what we are and do to what God is and does."

➤ "Quick counsel will only see us through from one crisis to the next. We need long-term help, and that can only be provided by long-term measures.
Disciplined, thoughtful, prayerful study of God's Word, undertaken with the Spirit's help, is what we need.
It will change the way we think and consequently the way we live, and ultimately the way we feel."
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

➤ "... teach and encourage the sufferers in solid, inductive Bible study, and to discourage mere devotional reading. 
In most depressed people, devotional reading has either stopped altogether, or it has degenerated into something unhealthy and unhelpful.
When we study and meditate on the Scriptures, they begin to make a significant impact on the whole of our lives.
A cleansing process takes place when our lives are thus exposed to the influence of God's Word in Scripture.
That process is as important to our spiritual well-being as the cleansing of a wound is to its healing."
Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth. John 17:17

➤ "Through God's rebukes we see our need; through the healing powers of His Word - its encouragement, redirection, assurance - our minds and spirits can be healed.
In fact, says Paul, all the equipment to help us to be stable servants of Christ can be found in Scripture.
And stability is the very quality we need when we are discouraged and have begun to think, "I cannot stand it much longer."
Most of all, Scripture refocuses our hearts and minds on the God whose character is revealed in it. Knowing Him better is our deepest need.
Meeting that need will put all of our other needs - our doubts, discouragements, depression, disconsolation - in their proper context."
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

➤ "Knowledge and love of God create an environment in which discouragement and a sense of depression or spiritual desertion find difficulty in breathing."
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek

my face.”My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
 Hide not your face from me.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:7-8, 13-14


This and that.

July 10th.
Summer days are in full swing - and so is the heat.
Thankful for our annual beach pass which allows us to trek to the beach for just a few dollars each week so we can take a break from the city heat and enjoy the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean.
And to the genius who invented fans - BLESS YOU!

~~~ Our month-long experiment to see if my people could handle the daily work required to care for a rabbit and treat it with gentleness and respect was a success!
We are now the official owners of a Holland Lop rabbit.
Meet Charlie - formally known as Charlotte.
(Apparently, one cannot decipher the sex of a rabbit until it is approximately six months old. His former owner was beginning to have her suspicions that her beloved rabbit was, in fact, a boy, and her suspicions were confirmed after a visit to the vet for a check-up. We are thankful Karen had Charlie examined before handing him over to us. He is healthy and happy, and knowing he is a boy is an important and needed piece of information!)
On a side note ... Having a rabbit is definitely a conversation starter! People want to do one of two things when they meet him: hold him, or cook him. There does not seem to be a middle-of-the-line!
Charlie is a sweet rabbit, and everyone in the family (who actually likes animals) enjoys him, so we look forward to having this little piece of God's clever creation in our family for as long as He sees fit.

Last weekend, Dennis hauled every Eastman child except Micah up to Fresno to spend the weekend with Steven and CC.
They swam for hours, )Luke and Caleb) saw the new Spiderman movie, spent an entire day at a water park, spent evenings talking together, and ended their time with worship at church followed by a delicious lunch.

And I - stayed HOME.
Three days of complete peace and silence without any demands or commitments. Something I have needed for some months, which my husband graciously provided.
I made no plans, saw no one but the cashier at Trader Joe's when I stocked up on food for the weekend and did not do one household chore. I slept, wrote, watched movies, thought, read books, and prayed. During the 60-hour respite, I learned a few things about myself.
1) I need more sleep. Each night found me sleeping soundly for ten hours, followed by a three-hour nap the following day. Though I have several more years of parenting young children and teens ahead of me, making early bed times nearly impossible, I definitely need to increase my REM hours throughout the week.
2) God did not create me for leisure. An hour here, an afternoon there, a morning to sleep in ... these things I appreciate and enjoy. But overall? I crave work. I need to be useful, have a purpose for my day, and I want to serve. Having a weekend alone with nothing to do was an excellent reminder that my "empty nest" days will need to be profitable. Whether Dennis and I serve together or in different areas, we most definitely need to have a purpose to our days!
3) I cannot let my brain go idle for too long. I envy others who can "shut down" for hours or days at a time before re-engaging, but my mind does not have the capacity to function like that. I am like the screensaver on a computer. Once my brain goes into "sleep mode" it takes a smack on the keyboard or a re-boot to get my thoughts working properly again. I much prefer keeping them well-oiled and ready to engage at a moment's notice!

Thank you, Dennis, for the gift of three days.
And thank you, Steven and CC, for hosting, feeding, entertaining, and loving my family!

~~~ This is my current reading list.
Normally, I read only one book at a time in order to keep myself completely focused on the topic at hand, but right now the Lord has me seeking wisdom on different topics, for different reasons.

Deserted by God is an EXCELLENT read. Ferguson does a fantastic job walking through some of the most often-used Psalms to shed light on wonderful truths tucked within. For anyone who is discouraged, in despair, or wondering if God truly means it when He says, "I will never leave you or forsake you," ... this book will us the Psalms to teach you how to identify the cause of your discouragement so you can fall back into the comforting embrace of a God who desires to ENcourage His children.

The first time I read It's So Much Work to Be Your Friend, I cried. Lavoie does a brilliant job creating a picture of what daily life looks like for people with learning needs. As a mother of five kids who battle dyslexia, his picture was a little too vivid for me. He helped me understand why they struggle, how they struggle, and how much help they need to "find their way" in a world that will not accommodate them. I cried because I felt like I had failed them in a hundred ways. But in His goodness, the Lord lifted my head and showed me that though I do not do everything well, I do some things well - and those things matter.
I am reading it again because now that the emotion has been acknowledged and released, I am ingesting Lavoie's information with practical perspective and thinking. And what a difference it makes!

The title alone of What did you Expect? makes me smile. It is the second book on marriage that my friend Jill and I are reading together this summer. I am expecting to laugh in between the thwacks on the back of my head. No matter how long you have been married, you are still two sinners trying to live together righteously. There will ALWAYS be something to learn!

Spiritual Depression - Its Causes and Cure provides exactly what you would expect. A touch more technical than other books on the same topic, but a worthy read. And a classic from what I have been told.

~~~ Happy Monday!
I will leave you with this quote by J. C. Ryle. It is a quote that provokes thought, to be sure!

"With God nothing shall be impossible!" Luke 1:37
Questions and doubts will often arise in men's minds about many subjects in religion. They are the natural result of our fallen estate of soul.
Our faith at the best is very feeble.
Our knowledge at its highest is clouded with much infirmity.
With Him who called the world into being and formed it out of nothing - everything is possible. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
There is no sin too black and bad to be pardoned. The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin.
There is no heart too hard and wicked to be changed. The heart of stone can be made a heart of flesh.
There is no work too hard for a believer to do. We may do all things through Christ strengthening us.
There is no trial too hard to be borne. The grace of God is sufficient for us.
There is no promise too great to be fulfilled. Christ's words never pass away - and what He has promised, He is able to perform.
There is no difficulty too great for a believer to overcome. When God is for us - then who shall stand against us? The mountain shall become a plain!
Let principles like these be continually before our minds. The angel's maxim is an invaluable remedy. Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God's omnipotence!


Micah's first overseas MISSION TRIP.

Micah is coming home! Micah is coming home!
He has been living in Northern Ireland the past two weeks serving on a mission team.
His first overseas mission trip ... and he fell in love with the Irish people.
"Three days this week we were invited to lunch by the sweetest elderly people to walk on the face of this earth. They have served us unconditionally throughout this trip. Many of the beds we are sleeping on were given to us by the same people who fed us." - Micah
I love his description! 
And I love that the world is filled with believers. Brothers and sisters in Christ in every culture, ready and willing to serve one another, encourage one another, and preach the Gospel together so the Good News of Jesus Christ can be heard, understood, and accepted around the globe.

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

The team is ready to fly "across the pond!"

Together on the Island, and ready to get to work!

Along with being part of the Worship Team, 
Micah had the privilege of portraying Pharaoh during the skits.
(His dramatic flare comes directly from his father. I would have been the one working on props where no one could see me. He is most definitely his father's son!)
200 + children filed into the church all week long to find smiling teens eager to play with them and most importantly, tell them about the love of an amazing God who sent His only Son to die for them
- so they might LIVE!

An impromptu music session with the team and the Ireland hosts.
Drummers will use anything to create the percussion piece of music!

A small sampling of the beauty of Northern Ireland that surrounded the team during their trip.

Not only did the team serve children through VBS, they also ministered to the elderly, and hosted a Youth Day at the high school for the local teens. "Youth Day was one of the best days!" - Micah
(Photo: one of the teams ready to play games on Youth Day)

On Sunday they hosted a huge outreach to the community. A wonderful way to end their trip!
Other activities of the week included Street Evangelism and Door-to-Door Evangelism.
"The door to door evangelism is hard and frustrating, but has proven successful many times over the past week, and proven that God can use a bumbling fool to spread the Gospel." - Micah

The team poses with their new friends from their host church in Newtownards, North Ireland.
How beautiful is that the body of Christ is FILLED with godly, loving people who desire to serve the Lord - and invite others to join them.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: 
just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 
By this all people will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35


What do my children think of me?

This little note taped to my kitchen cabinet sparked some interesting conversations during our 4th of July celebration. Our neighborhood hosts an annual Block Party, and we have approximately 60 friends filter through our house every year when they come to join in the festivities. Usually, I remove any personal notes when I put away books and other paraphernalia for large events, but for some reason, this one stayed put.
I didn't think anything about it until one of our young adults caught me in the kitchen and asked (with a curious and somewhat confused expression), "Mrs. Eastman? What is a "Mom Poll?"
I laughed and said, "Twice a year I ask my children to assess me as a mom. I know I have blind spots, so I want to make sure that my personal self-assessment matches their own assessment."
"Huh. So ... what kind of questions do you ask them?"
"Well, I ask what they would change about me, if I am meeting their needs, and if I cause them to stumble into sin."
And the conversation continued for another ten minutes.

Two days later, Luke said to me, "Sooooo, your little "Mom Poll" note on the cupboard sure created a stir!"
"What do you mean?"
"Every woman and girl that talked to me had seen it when they were getting food in the kitchen and asked what it meant."
"What did you tell them?"
"I said that a couple times every year you ask us if you are a horrible mother and then ask how you can be a better one."
"Um, okay. That is a rather broad definition. Did you give examples of questions so they understand the actual purpose of it?
"Nah. I didn't want to think that deeply at the moment."
<insert Mom eye roll here>

Though the questions are mine, I give credit to my dear aunt for this exercise. She was a great example to me of how easy and important it is to have an open dialogue with children and teens. She did not tell me she did this - I witnessed the conversations myself. And I was fascinated. She willingly humbled herself, placing herself on the same level as her kids so she could seek to understand what was going on in their hearts and minds. They told her things they loved about her, of course, but what blew me away was how easily they could be honest with her, telling her freely, yet respectfully, what they did not like/appreciate/enjoy about her as a mom. Even more impressive - she accepted their words with grace. She did not pout, get defensive, or walk away in a huff. She simply asked more questions, and they responded. Words, explanations, tears, frustration, understanding, compromises, hugs, and "I love you" followed. I said to myself, as a teenage girl, "I want this with my own children. Freedom to speak openly and honestly - with purpose."
Fast forward 30+ years later - I am doing it! Following her example, and reaping the same benefits and blessings she enjoyed decades ago. Thank You, Lord, for surrounding me with godly and wise women when I was a child and a teen, and as an adult. Much of my parenting comes from the wisdom and creativity shown by many who walked before me ... and I am grateful!

This is one of my favorite activities with my children. I do it with all of them ... ages 17 to 6 ... and I learn a lot about myself - and my children. The first few years I was nervous, fearing I would score an "F" as a mother, but as it turns out, they are far more gracious with me than I am with myself. I am always surprised by this truth when we walk through their assessments together until I remember that my children are not looking for "Supermom." They just want ME. And "me" is something I can give them. Every single day. ❤

Mom Assessment ~ Summer 2017

What areas do you feel I am succeeding as a mom? (with you personally)

In what areas do you think I can/should improve as a mom? (with you personally)

Do you see any hypocrisy in me - in word and/or deed?

In what areas do you feel I am inconsistent?

Do I encourage you in your walk with the Lord?

Is there anything I do that causes you to stumble in your walk with the Lord?

What can I do to encourage/challenge/hold you accountable in your pursuit of godliness?

Do you feel loved by me?

Do you feel like you get enough of my time and/or attention?
    If not, what would “enough” look like to you?

If you could change one thing about me as a mom, what would you change?

What do you appreciate about me as a mom?

If there was one thing I could do better that would make our relationship stronger and more secure, what would it be?