9.30.2017

This and that.

Saturday!
A day to sleep in and enjoy time as a family without any schoolwork, meetings, or commitments. YES!
Let the refreshment of the weekend BEGIN!

We kick off each weekend with a Friday night flag football game!
Josiah and Isaiah are on the same team - the Raiders. (Dennis' favorite NFL team since he was eight-years-old. He takes a lot of ribbing for his choice in teams, but always replies with a smile and, "I am a loyal fan - not a bandwagoner!" HA! HA!)
Josiah and Isaiah are having a blast playing football and eagerly RUN to the field each week ready to play. And win or lose, they are full of smiles!
Micah is now legally allowed to drive the streets of America! (With an adult who is 25+ years of age.)
His motivation was low at first, seeing that we require our teens to pay for their own car insurance, gas, and maintenance of any vehicle they drive, but after working hard for a year, saving money, and studying for his permit in between being buried in books for his school studies - he is ready!
Six months behind the wheel
+ a driver's test in March
will hopefully = a licensed driver!
Good luck, Micah!

I am devouring this biography right now.
I have always been fascinated by the life of D. L. Moody, having heard many stories about him, and reading dozens of fantastic quotes, but have never personally studied the man himself.
I have only reached his 25th year of life thus far, but my goodness did he accomplish MUCH in his first century! Thankfully, his passion and industrious nature inspire me rather than make me regret the wasted time in my own 45 years of life. If the Lord gives me only ten more years of life, I can accomplish a great deal for the Kingdom if I model my actions after Moody's! That man did more in one day to serve "the least of these" than most people accomplish in a year!

He was criticized for his zeal (and his methods), but he was undaunted by such opinions. God put a fire in his heart for the unwanted and the unsaved - and he pursued them with everything he had - mind, body, and soul - regardless of the thoughts and negative opinions of others. I want to emulate this steadfast nature of his. I am criticized often, but I am not always swift to cast off the negative comments to remain focused on what God has called me to do. Embarrassingly, the criticism sometimes distracts me enough to slow me down and take my eyes off of the goal: Obedience. As my wise cousin, Laura, encouraged me, "Obedience to the Lord is the measure of success - not the opinions of others. WALK IN OBEDIENCE." Dwight L. Moody lived this truth, and the more I learn of him, the more I am challenged and encouraged to do the same.

Dennis was invited to speak at a teacher's convention in Sacramento this week, and was honored to be able to say, "Yes! I will attend!" He presented four different seminars in two days to eager and enthusiastic crowds, and loved every minute of it! Teaching truly is his gifting!
I include this photo because, of COURSE, he chose to order his entire lunch from a BACON TRUCK! One of his life's mantras: Bacon should be its own food group!

The littles and I enjoyed our collection of school lessons this week. 
Noah and the flood, the Ice Age, and Dinosaurs were the topics of study.
We read about dinosaurs, measured their length in the backyard to understand their enormous size, and then made our own fossils!
Coffee grounds, flour, salt, and a collection of twigs, shells, and rocks produced some fun results.
I am thankful Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie dive into our studies with enthusiasm! Their excitement has even lured Caleb (who is also studying the Ancients) into our activities/experiments when he hears their laughter and shouts of glee.
I pray they will always maintain a desire to learn - and to do so with JOY.

Happy Weekend, everyone!
May it be filled with wonderful opportunities to serve, encourage, and love others the way Christ loves us!

9.29.2017

The Secret.


For two days, a sweet sister and I exchanged text messages about - contentment.
Wanting to move someplace where life is simple, slower, more relaxed.
Feeling frustrated with finances and the constant lack thereof.
Bemoaning the moral decline of our state and country.
Etc.
Etc.
Etc.
We discussed the fact that God rarely gives us the desires of our heart when we refuse to be content with what we already have.
And sometimes, He uproots us and sends us where we don't want to go. Will we obey? Will we trust Him, even when we don't understand what He is doing - or like it?

Contentment is a choice.
Yet often, instead of choosing contentment, we choose to play the game of Compare and Despair.
We look around instead of looking UP.
UP into the eyes of our Savior who bids us, "Come to Me, all who are weary and 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. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

In the late afternoon on the day of the final exchange with my friend, this quote showed up in my box.
“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”
~ Elisabeth Elliot

Talk about a heart check!
No matter where we are - where we go - what we do - or with whom we do it, the common denominator in every situation - is US.
If we refuse to find contentment in our current circumstances, why do we think we would be content in a new state, a new job, a new marriage, or a new church? Regardless if one or every one of our circumstances changes, we bring our thoughts, attitudes, convictions, and perspective right along with us. As a wise person once said, "The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but the lawn still has to be mowed!"

Our sin nature of selfishness and pride will always be at war with the need to surrender and submit to the Lord. We constantly have to kick Self off the throne of our heart to allow the Savior to take His rightful position of power. Paul summed up this fight clearly in his letter to the Romans.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Romans 17:18-20
We could easily slide the word 'contentment' into this passage. "I have the desire to be content, but not the ability to carry it out. For I am not content the way I want to be, but the discontentment I hate is the attitude of my heart. If I continue being discontent, it is not me who does it, but the sin that dwells in me." So, what do we do? How do we defeat discontentment and create contentment - in all circumstances?
"Come to Me, all who are weary and 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. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Lord, pull out and destroy any discontentment that is buried within my heart. I can quickly identify many of the weeds, but others are so cleverly covered I know I will not be able to find them unless you point them out to me Yourself. It is embarrassing that I even have to ask, Lord, but I would rather see the ugliness of my sin when the weeds are small and manageable than wait until they are choking the life out of my spiritual growth. Reveal my discontentment, I pray. Reveal it, uproot it, destroy it, and replace every weed with seeds of contentment and joy. Forgive me for desiring my own way instead of Yours. You are God, I am not. Not my will - but Oh, Lord, let YOURS be done!

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.
This is my rule in all the churches. I Corinthians 7:17

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, ... I Timothy 6:6

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

9.26.2017

A fun and somewhat chilly school day!


 We had a fun day studying the Ice Age!
After reading about the interesting details of the time period, we engaged in two fun activities.
First, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie had to dress as though they LIVE in a land of ice.
Snow gear, warm jackets, hats, gloves, and of course, weapons for hunting and self-defense.

(I should mention that it was 83 degrees outside while we partook in this activity, and there was only one place in our entire yard that could remotely pass for a desolate, ice-laden land.
In hindsight, a couple of white sheets would have been very handy for this tableau!)



The experiment: Who can keep a pile of ice on their belly the longest?

Step 1
Place a double handful of ice on each child's belly.
Step 2
Grab camera to capture the moment on film.
Step 3
Hear screams coming from the children lying on the floor
because the ice froze their skin faster than expected and they are in pain.
<expressions of misery are real, not acting>
Step 4
Change the 'control' piece of the experiment by placing the ice on the neck of each child.
Step 5
Grab camera to capture the moment on film.
Step 6
Hear laughter swirling through the room instead of screams.
Step 7
Engage in ice fight while cleaning up after the experiment.


Ice Age Lesson Plans?
A SUCCESS!

9.25.2017

A most excellent quote.

When I speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply that . . .
his sense of sin is becoming deeper,
his faith is becoming stronger,
his hope is becoming brighter,
his love is becoming more extensive, and
his spiritual-mindedness is becoming more marked.

Let us read the Bible reverently and diligently - with an honest determination to believe and practice all that we find in it.

Imagination is the hotbed where sin is too often hatched.
Guard your thoughts - and there will be little fear about your actions.

~ J. C. Ryle

I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh, when will You come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
Psalm 101:2-4

9.24.2017

We must remember. And we must prepare.

This book was added to my "wish list" when it came up in conversation several months ago during
COMMITTED. We were talking about the importance of memorizing Scripture so we would have the promises and truths of God hidden in our hearts if Bibles became illegal here in America as they have been in many countries around the world. One of my girls mentioned this true story, sharing that the woman knew she was about to be imprisoned for being a Christian, so she memorized 100 chapters of the Bible to prepare for her time in prison. That brief synopsis was enough to convince me that I had to know her story. I purchased the book some time ago, opened the cover yesterday, and finished reading the entire book this afternoon.

It is amazing how many Christians have suffered for Christ in ways we have never even considered. A choice few became famous for their suffering, traveling the world to share their stories, and writing books to preserve the detailed truths of what they endured. But for every famous figure tortured for Christ, there are thousands of others who are not remembered by men. Yet their names are recorded in the scrolls of heaven. When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. Revelation 6:9-11

We must remember them. The named and the unknown. For they stood firm in the day of testing and persecution, refusing to bow to idols, refusing to denounce Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and boldly preaching the Gospel to every person set before them - without shame and without fear. Tortured or martyred, they willingly suffered and died for the sake of Christ. And thousands were brought to saving faith because of the unwavering faith of the martyred saints. Tortured - yet singing. Beaten - yet giving their daily food ration to another. Persecuted - yet smiling and praising God for His goodness and deliverance.

We cannot forget these men and women.
Because one day - it might be us.

I want to share some quotes from this book, for they inspire and encourage me to increase my faith because like Ahn Ei Sook, I know that on my own I am not strong enough to stand. Without Christ, I will fall. Without Christ, my flesh will win. Without Christ - I am nothing.

     *****************************************************

"I would not bow before the idol, even if He did not save me from the hands of the enemy. I was saved by Jesus. I could bow only before God, the Father of my Savior.
Of all the people at the shrine, I was the only one who remained erect, looking straight at the sky."

"I was only an ordinary woman. No kingdom was awaiting my rule. Still, I knew that my Lord had ordered me to fight. I had no choice except to bear testimony of my Savior until I should die."

(Before entering prison, when she was still in hiding.) "During those days and weeks I sang and prayed and memorized more than one hundred chapters of the Bible as well as many hymns.
I felt faint to think of what would happen to me. 'How long will I be able to endure?' I kept asking myself.
I read the Bible earnestly and had a new concern to memorize important chapters against the day when I would be in prison without my Bible."

(The underground church.) "We took great care to go to the house every Friday night ... We met quietly, sang hymns in low voices, read the Bible, gave testimonies, and prayed. Our prayers were long and serious.
We were filled with the Holy Spirit and were convinced it was more an honor to die for the Lord. We constantly lived in fear of the police, but we were happy and satisfied, envying no one.
I realized that it was because of this persecution that I was able to truly experience God's presence and trust His promises."

(A godly, older man encouraging her.) "When the world is at peace, not very many people diligently seek God. Only at times such as these of persecution and disorder by the hands of satan do believers awaken in faith.
What would happen if God kept silent at such a time as this when satan is working so powerfully to kill men spiritually? It is at such a time as this that God works even more zealously to protect His believers. It is at such a time when God never rests."

(When taken to prison and speaking with her mother before entering.) "Now I'm going to enter the advanced course in the college of faith ... Christ Himself is the Principal, so I am sure He will teach me about true faith. Isn't that wonderful?"
"You must follow Him completely," she said, "if you are to learn from Him. You must lose your life so that Jesus may live within you. That will mean death to yourself every day, every hour, and every minute."

"Having been overwhelmed by God's infinite love and glowing with love for Jesus, I looked forward to being persecuted and tortured for His sake as a trial of my faith.
I had read the Bible several times and stored God's Word, will, and promises within my heart. I was prepared. I thought I would probably be able to give a good answer in this test. This was truly the trial I had been waiting for."

(Regarding prison and wicked jailers.) "I decided these experienced might be God's will. Hunger, trials, and unbearable tribulation provided good opportunities to experience the Lord's promises."

(When all persecuted Christians were released from prison at the end of WWII.) "When we were all together just inside the gate, the jailer in charge shouted for attention. 'Ladies and gentlemen! These are the ones who for six long years refused to worship the enemy's gods. They fought against severe torture, hunger, and cold, and have won out without bowing their heads to the idol worship of the enemy. Today they are the champions of the faith!'
Suddenly the throng of people outside the gate shouted as one. 'Praise the name of Jesus!'
A hymn was sung:
All hail the power of Jesus' name! Let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all."

Thank You, Father, for the work You have done and are doing in the lives of Your saints. Some died for Your name, some have endured indescribable suffering, and some have only felt the sting of persecution. Thank You for giving them the strength to stand firm on the day of testing, letting others see that the "joy of the Lord is our strength" so others marveled that they could sing and pray and smile in the face of death. Death has no power over the believer since Your Son conquered death when He surrendered His life on the cross of Calvary. Praise You, Lord, for this truth! PRAISE YOU! And we thank You, Lord, that every saint who suffered for Your name, and for the sake of the Gospel, is now enjoying peace and joy in Your presence - forevermore.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3,4

9.22.2017

PEACE. One day at a time.

Trials,
concerns,
frustrations,
disappointments,
unknowns.
They surround us.
They overwhelm us.
And they can push us back to Christ. The One who says, "Come to ME, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

May this writing by J. R. Miller encourage you today!

"As your days - so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:25

One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life is to live one day at a time. Really, we never have anything to do any day - but the bit of God's will for that day. If we do that well - we have absolutely nothing else to do.

Time is given to us in days. It was so from the beginning. This breaking up of time into little daily portions means a great deal more than we are accustomed to think. For one thing, it illustrates the gentleness and goodness of God. It would have made life intolerably burdensome if a year, instead of a day - had been the unit of division. It would have been hard to carry a heavy load, to endure a great sorrow, or to keep on at a hard duty for such a long stretch of time. How dreary our common task-work would be if there were no breaks in it, if we had to keep our hand to the plow for a whole year! We never could go on with our struggles, our battles, our suffering if night did not mercifully settle down with its darkness, and bid us rest and renew our strength.
We do not understand how great a mercy there is for us in the briefness of our short days. If they were even twice as long as they are - life would be intolerable! Many a time when the sun goes down - we feel that we could scarcely have gone another step. We would have fainted in defeat - if the summons to rest had not come just when it did.

We see the graciousness of the divine thoughtfulness in giving us time in periods of little days, which we can easily get through - and not in great years, in which we would faint and fall by the way. It makes it possible for us to go on through all the long years and not to be overwrought, for we never have given to us at any one time more than we can do between the morning and the evening.

If we learn well the lesson of living just one day at a time, without anxiety for either yesterday or tomorrow, we shall have found one of the great secrets of Christian peace. That is the way God teaches us to live. That is the lesson both of the Bible and of nature. If we learn it, it will cure us of all anxiety; it will save us from all feverish haste; it will enable us to live sweetly in any experience.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

- J. R. Miller

9.20.2017

A gift of love.


Every week we receive four to five requests for our hand-written letters penned by women who have walked through the sorrow of miscarriage or stillbirth.
They write words of encouragement, comfort, and hope 
to women who are living in darkness, discouragement, and despair.

Our team of women is made up of faithful, committed, compassionate, and thoughtful women who are quick to respond and eager to serve each time I send an e-mail with the names of women who need their kindness. We are so blessed to have them!

And yet - we need more.

If you have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth and would be willing to share your story, your understanding, your empathy, and your heart ... we would love to have you join us.

There is no shortage of hurting women longing to feel their babies in their arms,
and something as simple and sweet as receiving a personal note,
written by hand on beautiful paper by a woman who understands their pain
is a most precious and desirable gift - of love.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
II Corinthians 1:3-5

9.19.2017

I want the one that comes with GRACE!

Pride is the oldest and most common of sins.
Humility is the rarest and most beautiful of graces.

This is a wonderful quote!
And there is plenty of Scripture to support it!

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. Proverbs 29:23

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5

Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2

It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one's own glory. Proverbs 25:27

When we look at pride through God's eyes, it is most repulsive.
What is paired with this grievous sin?
- disgrace
- destruction
- falling
- being an abomination to the Lord
- being opposed by God
- deception

Who wants to be known as such a person?
To be known as a man or woman of humility, however, is a reputation to be desired and pursued.

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
I Peter 15:33

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:10

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. I Peter 3:8

He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. Psalm 25:9

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you. I Peter 5:5, 6

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked to the ground. Psalm 147:6

Humility, when observed through the eyes of the Lord is a beautiful thing indeed!
And unlike the unattractive pairings of pride, humility is linked with:
- honor
- grace
- being lead by God in His ways 
- being lifted up by the Lord

May we pray as the Psalmist did, "Search me, O God, and know my heart," so He can find and remove any pride lurking within us, destroy it, and replace it with the humility that brings His grace.

9.18.2017

Who will it be?

I love when the Lord makes a familiar passage come ALIVE!
Especially when you are not expecting it!
I am currently taking a class on Suffering.
It is being taught by one of my favorite men on the planet. He is a godly, wise, gentle, compassionate, honest, and vulnerable man, and every week I leave his class with a mind full of biblical truth, and a heart full of encouragement.
I don't know if the Lord has me in this class to prepare me for personal suffering in the near future, or if He is equipping me to serve others who will suffer. Either way, my toolbox is being filled with excellent resources to use when needed thanks to the faithful study, preparation, and prayers of a man who finds great delight teaching the body of Christ.

We flip through the pages of Scripture constantly in class, and it was near the end when we paused in Isaiah 55. Though written to Israel, there is much we can learn and apply from this chapter, just as we can from all of Scripture.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

What struck me while reading this passage was the number of active verbs used by Isaiah.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to Me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call upon Him while He is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Come - Buy - Eat - Listen - Delight - Incline - Seek - Call - Forsake - Return.

These are active verbs.
And each one is INTENTIONAL.

in·ten·tion·al
adjective
done on purpose; deliberate.
synonyms: calculated, conscious, intended, planned, meant, studied, knowing, willful, purposeful, purposive, done on purpose, premeditated, preplanned, preconceived;

We do not accidentally come into the presence of the Lord.
We do not accidentally listen to, delight in, call on, or seek the Lord.
And we certainly do not accidentally forsake our sin and return to the Lord.

Our God gave us free will - the ability to CHOOSE.
The question is - who will it be? The Savior - or Self?

Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth,
and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side
of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord,
choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,
whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. 
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:14, 15

9.16.2017

A fun and sweet memory for this mom!


Three weeks ago I made a commitment to read ALL of our children's books before the school year began. We own approximately 200 books that have been collected over the last seventeen years, and many of them are family favorites. My plan was to read twelve books per day, which ended up being an industrious pursuit since it takes about 90 minutes to read a dozen books.

After checking 160 titles off the list, I was growing a little weary. I love children's literature (some of the books were purchased while I was in college) but I now know I prefer reading them in smaller doses. It wasn't until only 40+ books remained in the pile that I finally realized, "Hey! I have SEVEN OTHER PEOPLE in this house who can read!"
That was all it took to redirect the pursuit of making the entire stack of literature disappear.
Let the Circuit Reading BEGIN!

We set up three stations, and Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie read one book to Dennis, Micah, and Luke, rotating stations after each reading. Then, the three older boys read to the littles, three books each. BAM! 18 books removed from the pile - and everyone had a GREAT time!

While I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie read out loud, my favorite part of the evening was when the older boys read to their siblings. Enthusiastic, dramatic, energetic ... just a few words that describe their efforts. I asked them to choose their childhood favorites from the stack, so not only did they read with emotion, they ad-libbed, commented on their favorite portions of the books, and laughed during the story just as they did when they were little boys. It was a sweet moment for me as a mom.

As you can see from the photo above, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were highly entertained by their brothers. They actually fell back laughing because of the expressive readings and funny voices employed by Micah, Luke, and Caleb. I am so glad I was still holding my camera so I could capture the funny moment on film!

I know the window is closing on the "littleness" of our three youngest, so I want to soak in all of these 'lasts' because before I blink twice, the moments - will be memories.

Lord, thank You for my family! For Dennis - Micah - Luke - Caleb - Josiah - Isaiah - and Ellie. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without them, and I don't want to. They bring me such joy, and I love them more than I thought was humanly possible. Thank You, Lord, for seven amazing gifts.

9.14.2017

Time to Seek and Fear!

We arrived at church 45 minutes early Sunday morning, which was an absolute delight because it meant I could sit in the solitude of the sanctuary and read my Bible without interruption. How I cherish those times! After reading through the Psalms of the day, I flipped over to the Proverb of the day. Proverbs 10. I have read that chapter more times than I can count, yet for some reason, it felt like the first time. It is a chapter full of contrasts ... the righteous do this, but the foolish do that. It is easy to see myself in the foolish half of the verses, but on Sunday the Lord pushed my eyes to focus on the righteous portions. And there are many!
As I read, and re-read each verse, I found myself desiring to become the person Scripture described.

Consider this list:

‒Blessings are on the head of the righteous,

‒The memory of the righteous is a blessing,

‒Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,

‒The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,

‒On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,

‒The wise lay up knowledge,

‒Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,

‒Whoever restrains his lips is wise.

‒The tongue of the righteous is like choice silver;

‒Wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

‒The hope of the righteous brings joy,

Can you imagine being able to replace the words righteous, and wise with your own name?
Blessings are on the head of Laura.
The memory of Christina is a blessing.
On the lips of Denise, who has understanding, wisdom is found.
Ginger lays up knowledge.

What a worthy pursuit!
And one I need to employ.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, 
Matthew 6:33

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

9.12.2017

A bright pink reminder.

Last night, five of my COMMITTED girls sat together on my couch while we spent two hours discussing I Thessalonians 5. What a rich chapter! We dissected the verses, turning each command into a personal question, and shared our answers with one another. Humbling - convicting - vulnerable ... those are just a few words to describe the content of our conversation. As Scripture says, For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12, 13
The thoughts and intentions of our hearts were most definitely exposed. And it was WONDERFUL!

Of all the fantastic verses with which we interacted, it was these three that kept wrapping themselves around my heart - and squeezing tightly.
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

At face value, they seem simple and lovely. But when you look at them through the eyes of the Lord, they pack a powerful punch, for they are not suggestions - but commands.
Rejoice ALWAYS.
Pray WITHOUT CEASING.
In EVERYTHING give thanks.
For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

The questions we answered were these:
- Are you always rejoicing?
- Is your prayer life consistent, without pause?
- Do you give thanks for all things?

We spent a good amount of time here, each of us marveling that we find it difficult to obey such a positive and happy command, and then realizing that it goes back to the ugly roots of selfishness and pride. We don't rejoice always, because we are discontent, and we are discontent because we don't have what we want or what we think we deserve. We do not pray without ceasing because we let the cares of the world distract us, suck up our time, and focus our eyes on our circumstances rather than our Savior. We do not give thanks in all things because we find some of them unfair, unsettling, or outright painful. And yet, the verse gives us no wiggle room. There is no clause stating, "Rejoice, pray, give thanks unless you don't feel like it, you don't understand or like what God is doing, or you don't want to obey." The trio of commands closes with, "This is the will of God." Period. End of discussion.

And the words of Job rang in my head. Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” Job 40:4
There was nothing to say. No argument. No excuse. No defense.

After the girls left, I studied the notes I had written during our time together, feeling the conviction deepen with every line I read. I could not sleep, for my mind was not at rest. I rejoice, I pray, and I give thanks - but not enough. Not always. Not without ceasing. Not in everything.
Something has to change.
And it begins with renewing my mind.

I printed the words REJOICE - Pray Constantly - Give THANKS on a piece of neon pink paper, and taped it to the cabinet above our school books. I stand in that spot dozens of times each day, and now, every time I do, I will be reminded that it is GOD'S WILL for me to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Always.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! 
Psalm 32:11 

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

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 

... and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:17,18 

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, ... Ephesians 5:20 

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! Psalm 100:4 

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15  

1st Day of School Photo FUN!








9.11.2017

The Eastman Academy 2017-2018.


Our theme for the year:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, 
a worker who has no need to be ashamed, 
rightly handling the Word of truth. 
2 Timothy 2:15

Our character goal for the year:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, 
but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment,
so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29






Micah - our Senior!


Luke - Junior


Caleb - 8th Grade


Josiah - 4th Grade


Isaiah - 3rd Grade

  
Ellie - 2nd Grade

9.09.2017

May it be so!

Can you imagine making a declaration such as this?

And Job again took up his discourse and said:
“As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit.
Far be it from me to say that you are right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.
Job 27

As we read the account of his losses and his life, we witness Job whine, lament the day of his birth, and respond in the flesh. But he does not dwell there. He whines, yes, but then he looks up - back to the heavens - back to his God, and chooses to walk in righteousness.
"... till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go;"
When I read a passage like this my heart screams, "Yes! I LOVE this!"
But the thought that follows is, "I cannot say the same about myself." And I do not love that.

This is what the dictionary says about integrity:
in·teg·ri·ty
noun
1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
synonyms: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness
2. the state of being whole and undivided.
synonyms: unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity

And this is what God's Word says about it:

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. Proverbs 10:9

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. Proverbs 11:3

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. Proverbs 4:25-27

→ By this I know that You delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. But You have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in Your presence forever. Psalm 41:11-12

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

→ For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ ... Titus 2:11-13

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Psalm 24:3-5 

I cannot declare with Job, "I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go," because too often I choose sin instead of the Savior. But I want to learn how to live in such a way that I can, one day, say just as Job did, "... till I die I will not put away my integrity from me."
May it be so, Lord., I pray. May it be so.

9.07.2017

A terrific quote - and one I want to make a reality!

This quote found its way into my inbox, and I found it encouraging. Especially as we begin the new school year, which brings with it many assignments and tasks. The daily toil required of students, mothers, and men and women in the workplace can seem monotonous, purposeless, and futile. Some parts of our days are repetitive, seemingly without results, for we must do the same thing again tomorrow. But often, it is not the success of the task that matters - it is the character created during the task that matters most.
As a wise man once said, "God made Adam with a Bible in one hand and a shovel in the other, for he was created to worship and work!"
I love this! And my goal is to instill the same philosophy into the hearts and minds of my children - and myself.
                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nothing helps more to develop the transfigured life in us, than work. Some people chafe because they have so much to do. Their days are filled from morning to night with dreary, monotonous task-work. With men it is the never-ending work of the farm, the office, the store, the shop, the mill. With women it is the thousand duties of the household, the care of the home, the tending of children, the weary chores of domestic life.

There are many people who think their greatest obstacle in the way of spiritual growth and transformed character - is in the drudgeries to which they are indentured by their condition. They imagine that if they could be freed from these and could have leisure for reading, for study, and for fellowship - then they would grow into a far more radiant beauty of character.

But this is a mistaken impression. The only one perfect life the world has ever known, was not spent with a book - but with a hammer and a saw! The school of common taskwork, with its perpetual round of dreary duties - is the best place in the world in which to attain noble spiritual culture. There is no other way in which one's life will be so surely, so quickly transfigured - as in the faithful, cheerful doing of every-day tasks.

We need to remember that this world is not so much a place for doing things - as for developing character. Household life is not primarily a sphere for good cooking, tidy keeping of rooms, thorough sweeping and dusting, careful nursing and training of children, hospitable entertainment of friends, and the thousand things that must be done each day; it is a sphere for transforming women's souls into radiant beauty.

The shop, the mill, the factory, the store, the office, the farm - are not primarily places for making machines, selling goods, weaving cloths, building engines, and growing crops; they are, first of all, places for making men, building character, growing souls.

Right in the midst of what some people call drudgery - is the very best place to get the transformed, transfigured life! The doing of common tasks patiently, promptly, faithfully, cheerfully - makes the character beautiful and bright!

- J.R. Miller, "The Transfigured Life!" 1893

9.05.2017

Wedding FUN!


This is my favorite photo of the wedding day!
My sweet Karen. ❤
The Lord had her stroll into my life two years ago, and before one month was complete she was sitting on my couch offering every detail of her life and asking how she could be more like Christ.
She trusted me with her past, her emotions, her fears - and her heart.
She is not the same woman she was two years ago. She dove headlong into Scripture seeking to understand her identity and value in Christ, so much so that when she read her vows to Brett on Sunday she said, "I decided I would marry someone who saw me how God has chosen to see me."
"... in that day I will make you My treasured possession, my jewel." Malachi 3:17
Being a guest at her wedding was honor enough, but she also asked me to arrive early to pray with her before the ceremony. What a precious time that was, and a memory I will not forget.
We took this photo right after we prayed, and I love it.
I love that she is on my lap, indicating affection and intimacy.
I love that she is in her wedding dress.
I love that we both have joyful, sincere smiles.
I love that we are together.
When we are old and gray (in my case older and grayer), we will look at this photo - and remember.
We will remember God's faithfulness, His provision, His correction, His forgiveness, His grace, and His unfailing love for two of His daughters who desperately needed to see ourselves - through HIS eyes.


It is just too easy and predictable to take a nice, posed photo at a wedding, so we decided to have some fun with our photo shoot! There are several other shots, but this one makes me smile the most!


Our traditional COMMITTED wedding photo!
We always take a fun one - and then compose ourselves for the serious one.
We wanted a different pose than the last wedding, but Karen's dress would not 'bend' so we had to get creative.
Hence, the Cleopatra I-am-being-carried-around-and-adored-by-those-who-love-me pose. It is fitting because we DO adore and love our sister,
and would do anything to serve her!



I have known this young woman since she was 12 years old. When she walked down the stairs wearing this lovely garment (she was the soloist so she dressed to match the bridal colors) I exclaimed, "I know that dress! You look like Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas!"
Later, I shared the same sentiment with the other girls and they unanimously agreed. So, we paid homage to the movie musical genre by bursting into song singing "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing" until we were laughing.
And, of course, we had to capture the moment on film!
As a former ballet dancer, Demi knew how to pose to show off the dress and the shoes - and she was spot on! Such fun!


I had the privilege of meeting these two young women long before the wedding, but our time together at the rehearsal and the wedding solidified our connection.
They are both outgoing, energetic, quick to laugh, and eager to encourage and offer support to those closest to them.
We agreed it would be terrific if they lived out here so they could join COMMITTED!
Brittany and Sara - you are a DELIGHT! Thank you for making me feel so welcome and loved.


Dennis has known these two young men, Geoffrey and Brandon, for several years and he always enjoys his time with them!
They have both allowed Dennis to encourage them, support them, and cheer them on as they pursue the callings the Lord has placed on their lives.
Both men are quick to smile, quick to laugh, and always ready to serve.
Thank you for letting Dennis share in your lives, guys ... he appreciates you!


Sam and Tiffany! Dennis and I enjoyed spending the evening with them, laughing, trying hand-made ice cream sandwiches, discussing important issues and things that have absolutely no significance.
There is no end to the conversation when we are together. We love it!


My date!
You did a fantastic job officiating the wedding, Dennis. You were light-hearted, funny, biblical, and intentional ... exactly what Brett and Karen desired. There was no one else they wanted to lead them on this special day ... they wanted YOU. And you delivered.
I was proud to be the wife of the man who spoke truth from God's Word, challenged and encouraged the couple to pursue godliness first in the marriage, to serve when they would rather sleep, to forgive when they would rather hold a grudge, and to offer grace when they would rather pass judgment.
You were unashamed to say the name of Jesus, and you boldly spoke the words Brett and Karen wanted their guests to hear.
Thank you for making their ceremony memorable.
You put Christ in the center of everything - and He was glorified.
I love you.

9.04.2017

Brett & Karen are MARRIED!

How does one describe a picture-perfect wedding?

♥ A bride who spent the morning of her wedding at the beach with a dear friend to enjoy her favorite part of Creation - clouds, which she specifically prayed would fill the sky on her wedding day - and to pray for the Lord's blessing on the day.
I knew she had been praying for fluffy whiteness, so when I woke up and saw them through my bedroom window I sent her a text asking, "Have you seen the CLOUDS?" She instantly responded, "We are heading to the beach to soak in the clouds and pray. It is more important than anything else before the wedding. You can't tell me God isn't smiling today! To Him be all the glory!"
♥ Five attentive, thoughtful, focused bridesmaids who served the bride with enthusiasm and love.
♥ The groom and groomsmen enjoying lawn games and a lot of laughter at the venue while waiting to dress for photos.
♥ Squeals and tear-filled eyes when the bridesmaids saw the bride dressed in her wedding gown for the first time.
♥ Hard-working and friendly photographers capturing sweet, memorable, and fun moments.
♥ The parents of the bride dressed in their best and smiling from ear to ear.
♥ The bride and groom holding hands around a corner and praying together before the ceremony without seeing each other. The groom prayed boldly and sincerely, while the bride cried.
♥ Personally having the privilege of praying for the bride ... standing together in a circle ... holding hands with her mother, the bridesmaids, and the soloist ... surrendering the entire day to the Lord and thanking Him for giving Karen a man who sees a valuable treasure when he looks at her and accepts her and loves her - just as she is.
♥ Walking toward a dapper groom and his five groomsmen as they made their way to their places for the ceremony. Five men who love and respect the groom - not because of what he has done - but because of who he is. A man who seeks after God and loves Him with his whole heart.
♥ The parents of the groom full of excitement, ready to witness their son pledge his life to their daughter-in-law whom they have already accepted as their own.
♥ Excited wedding guests talking and smiling as they eagerly awaited the entrance of the bridal party.
♥ A gorgeous, colorful, energetic, yet relaxed bridal party processing down the aisle.
♥ Tears filling the bride's eyes as she looked to the skies before taking the first step to walk down the aisle with her father.
♥ An overwhelmed groom accepting the gift of his bride from the hands of the man who raised her and now trusts her to the protection, care, and leadership of her husband.
♥ Prayer, Scripture, the story of how the couple met, funny and lighthearted moments, a charge to the couple from God's Word, handwritten vows to one another, official vows, communion between the bride and groom, a song, the kiss, and the pronouncement of "Mr. & Mrs. Brett Craig!"
♥ The heavens opening and rain pouring down!
♥ Thoughtful and 'punny' toasts from the Father of the Bride and the Father of the Groom.
♥ A loving toast from the older sister of the bride and an unexpected and heartfelt tribute from the twin brother of the groom ... a highlight of the reception.
♥ Gorgeous flowers, sweet photographs of the couple growing up and then together, delicious food, jovial servers, tasty hand-made ice cream sandwiches, orange groves, a trickling fountain, a century-old house, dancing, smiles, laughter, and hugs.
♥ A groom who, when asked at the close of the evening, "Did you enjoy your wedding day?" looked me right in the eye with his sweet trade-mark grin and with all sincerity replied, "It was the best day of my life."

Brett and Karen, it has been an absolute honor to be welcomed into your lives this past year. From your very first date, you have prayed for the Lord's will, His wisdom, and His blessing on every aspect of your relationship. You sought counsel, you listened to counsel, you faced difficult moments instead of running from them, you trusted each other when you could have judged and condemned, you loved when it would have been easier to ignore, and you extended grace to one another time and again. Not because you are perfect, but because you are acutely aware of the grace that was so freely bestowed on you by a heavenly Father who loves you with a love that cannot be measured, and will never fail.

Your wedding was beautiful, memorable, grace-filled, and warm.
But the best thing about your day was that God was glorified.
You are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You are not ashamed to identify as children of God.
You do not talk about your faith - you LIVE it day by day.
And you are beloved because you do.

We love you, and we are thankful the Lord drew us together at this time so we could be witnesses to the work He has been so faithful to perform in each of you this past year. Talking, problem-solving, eating, crying, laughing, playing touch football, and praying - together - has been precious indeed. Thank you for trusting us - with your relationship, with your friendship, and as your brother and sister in Christ. We look forward to walking many, many more miles of life together and are excited to see what the Lord has planned for you now that you are ONE.

With love and deep affection, ❤ Dennis and Michelle

9.02.2017

This and that.

Happy SATURDAY!
I hope you enjoyed a terrific week and will be able to use the weekend to relax and refresh your minds and bodies while enjoying all the delights that surround you each day.
And, I hope you are able to engage in a wonderful time of worship with brothers and sisters in Christ Sunday morning. Sitting under the passionate teaching of God's Word is a fantastic way to prepare for the week ahead and be inspired to dive in God's Word on your own to discover what He has waiting for you within its pages. ❤


I love this picture of Micah.
Though he is a younger version of Dennis in most ways (talkative, energetic, creative, and entertaining) he also has an introspective and thoughtful side.
We rarely witness this aspect of our son because he generally leaves the house when he needs peace and solitude.
It just so happened that I was able to capture this moment when we were out together with our G3 and he broke away from the crowd for a few minutes of quiet.
I love Micah, and I love his heart.

Speaking of our G3 ...
I was able to snap this photo on the way into Costco.
(One of the benefits of finally owning a smart phone - constant camera access!)
EVERY time we go somewhere, this is how they walk.
The twins with Ellie, one on each side, and Toby in the middle of Josiah and Isaiah.
Always.
I have witnessed it a hundred times, but it doesn't matter. It makes me smile every-single-time I see it!

This photo makes me laugh because it looks like everyone is in the tropics when they are actually standing in an Island's a parking lot!
(Well done on the landscaping, Islands!)
The kids are with Mr. Joe.
A dear friend who spoils us with a delicious lunch or dinner every year when we have our "Mr. Joe date."
He is fun, friendly, thoughtful, generous, and always excited to see our family.
We enjoy Joe very much and are thankful he calls us FRIENDS!

This is one of my favorite views.
                       ♥♥♥
Every afternoon we close the house down to all activity and spend one to two hours listening to audio books while the kids play quietly on the rug.
They need to stop moving so their bodies can rest and recharge. 
We have listened to some fantastic pieces of literature together and the peaceful hours of quiet and calm are welcomed and appreciated by all of us.
With the voluminous amount of books we read each year for our educational studies, I am often remiss to pull out and read our favorite books from our collection.
In an effort to remedy this, I decided to pull out EVERY book, place them on the hearth so they cannot be missed, and read through the entire stack before the 2017-18 school year begins.
It takes an hour to read 12 books, and we have 120+ books to tackle, so I think we just might make it!
Wish us luck!

When you have no air conditioning
and no pool, you must get creative when trying to keep cool!
The three littles play with the hose, in the sprinklers, and with buckets, but Josiah decided it was time for a new kind of water play. "Water and Wheelbarrows!"
It's pretty simple. They fill up the wheelbarrow with water and then sit in it like a jacuzzi, splash each other, or dump water on top of their heads.
It may not be fancy, but it sure is fun!

Isaiah recently decided to try on his old wetsuit. He has not worn it for at least six months, and he could barely squeak into it then, but he was pretty confident he could zip it right up.
Aaaand - he was wrong.
He could not get the suit past his knees.
Hmm. How to solve such a dilemma? Why, CUT THE SUIT IN HALF to make it into a two-piece, of course! 
(I am pretty sure a little piece of my surfer husband's heart died that day.)

Happy weekend, everyone!