Dennis' Foster Mom.

In honor of National Foster Care Month, I wanted to highlight the woman who took care of Dennis the first four months of his life. His Foster Mom.

Mom and Dad told Dennis he was adopted from the day they brought him home and said that if he ever wanted to find his birth parents, they would help him do so. (And, praise the Lord, we DID find them 37 years later!)
After we were married, Mom handed us an envelope that contained every paper they possessed pertaining to his adoption.
The envelope contained correspondence from the lawyers, a one-page typed letter with his birth family's history, the receipt for his adoption, totaling $500, paid on April 15th, 1968 (if only the cost was still this feasible!), and a three-page form filled out by his Foster Mom.

I remember reading through her notes 25 years ago - and smiling. She filled out the required answers for the state, feeding schedule, amount of food, vitamins, etc., but also added personal notes. Her words are thoughtful, detailed, more than what was expected, and give evidence that she CARED. (I laughed at some of the things she wrote because they show that we are born just as God designed - for the characteristics she observed in Dennis are still the same 50 years later! (I'll let you decipher which of D's traits were hardwired by the Lord!))

Dennis was named Jason Conrad Bold by his birth parents, Jack and Sue, but the foster mom called him Spencer. (He loves to say that his birth name sounds like a Superhero!) His full foster name was scratched out and replaced with his adopted name, so we will never know who this woman is, or how to find her and thank her for her kindness to "Spencer." But we are thankful.

Below are the highlights of her notes. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the life of the blonde, blue-eyed four-month-old baby boy who grew up to become Dennis Lee Eastman, as well as the heart and mind of a woman who chose to "visit orphans in their distress," and did so with joy.

Daily routine:
- Bath in mid-morning. Do not make sudden movements.

- Likes a lot of attention in early evening hours until bedtime.

Feeding instructions:
- I have always held Spencer while feeding him.
- You are going to find that sometimes when trying to give him his bottle he wiggles a lot and pushes the bottle away. I knew he was tired and needed milk so I laid him in bed propped up with his bottle ... he just loves it.

Sleeping Habits:
- Spencer sleeps at night on his tummy, usually with a pacifier when he first falls asleep.
- Two or three blankets to cover him, and he stays warmer with his stretch sleepers on or sleepers with the feet in because his feet get cold very easily, hands also.
* Do not overdress him when going out (too many blankets) as he perspires easily.

- Lately, he will put as many fingers in his mouth as possible and coo for quite a while.
- If you talk softly to him and play with him a lot, you will be well rewarded because he talks a blue streak and you will be surprised at the sounds he will make.
- If there's one thing that stands out in my mind to tell you it is to talk to him a lot as he is advanced in this capacity.
- His latest feat of daring is jumping on your lap, lift him up high and he loves it.
- He does sit in an infant seat but not for too long at a time. He likes to be where the action is ...
- He loves to go bye-bye. Put him up to your shoulder and he will watch out the window and enjoy every bit of it.
- He is one beautiful boy, and he is all boy.

Found hands - 1-1/2 months
Held head up - just a few weeks old
Follow with eyes - 1 month
Turned over - 1 month **** No kidding. He tucked his arm under and over he went, then it was a habit thereafter.
First words - I have been practicing with him to say "Ruffles have Ridges" but to no avail - I hope you have a good sense of humor.

And then she writes this personal note ...
To the Adoptive Parents:
It is a lovely afternoon, and I recently received a call that Spencer will be leaving us this week. My only thoughts right now are that you are very fortunate to be getting Spencer as an added member of your family. He has been most precious to us, and an extremely bright child. He has enjoyed our children's attention to him and is used to a little commotion once in a while (vacuum cleaner, usual household noises). He loves to go outside in the shade and eat (now that the weather has been nice I do this once in a while). He talks up a storm, belly laughs if you really work at it, and loves to cuddle. We've spent many an hour in a rocking chair just playing. There are no words to express how much I will miss him, and how much we have loved him. My only wish for all of you is that you have much happiness and no sorrows and that his life is blessed with all good things.
God Bless him,
His Foster Parents
This is just one example of countless families who willingly, compassionately, and lovingly choose to bring children into their home until they are reunified with their birth parents, adopted by another family, or become part of their own.

To the countless mothers and fathers who have chosen to open your homes and your hearts to foster children - Thank You! 
Whether you have a foster child in your family for three months or thirteen years - you are making a difference - you are changing a life - and you are doing Kingdom work as you live out God's command to ...
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8, 9

You may never know the effect you have on the lives of the children who filter through your home, but the Lord knows, and your sacrifice, commitment, and willingness to fight for those who cannot protect themselves is precious - and does not go unnoticed. ♥

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:58


Work and the Word - a wonderful combination!

The Lord has been doing an intense work on my heart these past weeks. It has been wonderful, difficult, beautiful, and a struggle. And I am thankful for all of it!
Half of the battle came through personal reflection and honest conversations with a handful of people who know me best. The other half came through a "challenge" assigned by the lovely woman who disciples me. Admittedly, I did not see the correlation between the two, for they seemed to be traveling on separate tracks. And then CLICK! The tracks merged. And all was made clear.
I LOVE when the Lord works like that!

I have tried to write about it while walking through it, but the Lord has silenced me. He does that sometimes, and while it feels foreign (I process through the spoken and written word) it is always profitable, and it always stretches me beyond my imagined limits. 

What I thought was a simple assignment turned out to be one that searched the depths of my heart, my mind, and my memory. And it all started with a few questions about God's Word. I look forward to the Lord loosening my tongue on the topic because I am confident I am not alone. He used the encouragement, listening ears, and support of Dennis and some sisters in Christ while He had me under construction, so I hope He will be able to use my personal struggle to encourage someone else in their own. 

It is no surprise that this quote touched me in a unique way today, for the light of God's truth has been shining brightly to reveal my blind spots, and I am beyond thankful that because of Him, I am seeing everything more clearly.

Thank You, Lord, for Your patience, long-suffering, and unending mercy. If I was You, I would be tired of Me, yet there You are, faithfully, day by day, waiting to receive me with arms open wide and an unmistakable look of love and delight on Your face. Thank You, Father, for loving me as You do, as often as You do, and as perfectly as You do. I need You. More than anything or anyone ... I need You.

"Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long!" Psalm 119:97
The Bible in the pulpit must never supersede the Bible at home. Let us read our Bibles in private more, and with more pains and diligence.

Read the Bible daily. 
Make it part of your everyday business to read and meditate on some portion of God's Word. 
Gather your manna fresh every morning! 
Choose your own seasons and hours. 
Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. 
Give your Bible the best, and not the worst, part of your time. 
But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and the Bible every day.

Next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible reading. 
By reading that Book we may learn . . .
what to believe,
what to be,
what to do,
how to live with comfort,
and how to die in peace.

Happy is that man who possesses a Bible!

Happier still is he who reads it!

Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice!

- Charles Spurgeon

With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments! I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Psalm 119:10, 11


Serving while waiting - and hoping.

Last night I had the opportunity to spend four hours with seven of my sisters who daily love and serve foster children and orphans. After four hours of conversation, encouragement, confession of sin, details of the brokenness and fear these children endure day after day, and tremendous conviction, I was so stirred up I felt like I could charge the towering inferno of "the system" with a plastic squirt gun - and win!

I could not settle down after they left. My mind was racing, trying to figure out how to shatter the barriers that stand between us and certification for foster care. We want the babies! One after the other to keep them out of hospital basements, police stations, and social worker offices while they wait for their forever family through reunification, long-term foster care, or adoption. How much longer, Lord?

Though the Lord quieted my heart and mind and blessed me with sound sleep, I woke up this morning with the same feeling of intensity and drive. Lord!? And in the still, small voice He so tenderly uses with His children, it felt like I heard Him say, "Remember. Go back to where this all began, trace My hand, and remember."
So, I did.
The result? Perfect peace.
I don't know. But I know the One who DOES! And that is enough.

I share our journey here to encourage anyone who is feeling the pull to pursue foster care, adoption, or lovingly support those who do. We are all part of a story the Lord began writing. The question is - what role is He asking each of us to play? May we all be motivated to respond quickly, and with joy.


Two years ago we received our quarterly report from the missionary we support in India. I usually glance through the letter, but for some reason, I felt compelled to read every word. It gave the usual updates and announced an exciting new ministry. A group of believers serving in a leper colony. They clean wounds, cook meals, and bathe the people afflicted with this disease. I stood in my kitchen with the letter in my hands. Stunned. They are washing the wounds of lepers. What did I do today?!?

Later that night while Dennis was shaving I asked him, "What did you do today?" He responded, and I asked, "Do you want to know what other people were doing today?" I read our missions letter.
He dropped his head back and groaned, "Do you want us to move to a leper colony, Michelle?"
"No," I replied with a grin, "but I am asking ... how are we using our time to serve the Kingdom? How are we serving 'the least of these'? How many people know Jesus because they know the Eastmans?"
Silence. From both of us.

The following evening we called a family meeting, shared the same story, asked the same question, and spent an hour discussing our family life.
We are a family of eight able-bodied people with strengths and passions the Lord has placed in each of us, yet every one of us squanders, at least, three hours per day. 
We asked the boys to think about their skills and interests because they do not need to wait until they are adults to impact the world for Jesus Christ. They can serve Him NOW. Right where they are - and affect eternity.

We talked about our family motto:
Soldiers for Christ
Protect the Innocent
Defend the Weak
Fight the enemy
Stand firm in the faith
"He has shown thee, Oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

It sounds great.
Are we LIVING it?!?

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2

Fast forward a week.
I sat in a chair on the beach with my toes in the sand while listening to a dear sister share her struggles and sorrows, her victories and joys. And as I listened I grew uncomfortable.
How have I served her? Have I been a faithful friend?
Lord, You have been stirring me up to do MORE. Now, here I am, looking into the eyes of a hurting, desperate friend who happens to have three rescued orphans living in her home, and this family needs a life ring the size of Kansas. Is this who You want us to serve? Is this who we have been waiting for?

I asked if I could tell her a story. The same story described above. When I finished, I looked her square in the eyes and said, "I think you are our lepers!" And she started to cry. Before the month ended, we were taking care of her children one day a week, and we just passed our two-year anniversary in March. ♥

However, the Lord was not finished stirring up compassion for orphans in the Eastman home.
He burdened my heart to have our family watch this movie together. To be honest, I avoided it for quite a while because I knew it was going to break me. I wasn't wrong.
We watched. In silence.
I soaked up every scene, every word, and shed several tears.
When it ended, I needed a moment alone. I stepped into our bedroom, grabbed a pillow, sat down on the bed, and began to weep from the depths of my soul. I could not reconcile the reality I knew with what I had just seen.
Dennis entered the room and said quietly, "I knew this is how I would find my wife."
He held me until the sobbing stopped, at which time I looked at him and asked, "There are just too many lepers, aren't there?"
He nodded solemnly and said, "Yes. Yes, there are."
"So what are we going to do? We can't be people who watch something like that, see the need, say, 'Oh, how awful,' cry, and then do nothing. What are we supposed to do?"

We didn't know the answer to that question.
We didn't know why the Lord was stirring our hearts, making us uncomfortable, and convicting us about how we spend time as a family, but He did. And He still does.
We did know one thing: Ignorance may be bliss, but once we are aware - we are accountable.
And as believers, we have no other choice but to DO.
"Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me." Matthew 25:40
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

Dennis and I have fully surrendered our marriage and our family to foster care and/or adoption if it is the Lord's will. He has not delivered an orphan or a foster child to the Eastman home yet, and He may never do so, but there are dozens of ways we can minister within the orphan and foster care community while we wait. For the need is great.

We do not have all of the answers.
There are obstacles in our way.
The Lord has not shown us the who/what/when/why/how of Eastmans and orphan care.
But, He doesn't have to! He has a reason for the passion and desire that is growing, not abating.
We don't have to know.
HE knows. 
All we have to do - is obey.


He is greater than our need.

I have a great need for Christ.
I have a great Christ for my need. 
- Charles Spurgeon

This is a fantastic quote.
And one that brings great comfort.

We have received a continual stream of disheartening news the past few weeks.
People are hurting.
Job losses.
Broken relationships.
Wayward children.
Reputations tarnished through gossip and slander.

There are many who have a great need for Christ.
Broken, weeping, frightened, disheartened men and women.
They are overwhelmed, unable to see the rays of hope that flicker in the distance, and wonder how they will survive.
Praise God there is a great Christ who can meet them where they are - and make them whole.

Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. I Peter 5:7

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you;
He will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7


Because of them I am not the same. And I am thankful!

On my last night in Indiana, my sweet Michelle looked at me with a serious expression and said, "I have one more question, and I need to ask it before you leave."
"Of course! What do you want to know?"
Before she asked her question, she spent several minutes verbally walking through our history together.
How we met.
Our first real conversation.
The first time we met for discipleship.
The highs and lows we experienced personally and in relationships.
Her dating relationship with Daniel.
The engagement.
The wedding.
Married life.
Five years of memories.
While she spoke, she described her perspective on my investment and influence in her life and had me securely captured in her web of memories. I relived each one in my mind's eye, smiling and praising God for taking what was once a mentor relationship and turning it into - a friendship.
I was completely startled when she stopped abruptly and asked, "I know what you have done for me these past five years. But I need to know, what have I done for you?"
I sat across from her, speechless.
I was so engrossed in the details of her thoughts that I could not come up with one of my own.
But I knew one thing, thoughts or no thoughts. I love her. And I needed to tell her why.

I used to think it strange when older women were close friends with younger women. I wondered what they could possibly have in common. What they would talk about. What they had to offer each other. And then, when I was about thirty, the Lord pulled back the curtain and showed me how precious such a relationship can be through the example of my grandmother and her dear friend, Lois.

I had heard about Lois for years. My grandmother clearly adored her. They talked, they shopped, they ate out, they traveled together, and they confided in each other. Their husbands connected too. The four of them were friends. True friends. Godly "iron sharpens iron" friends. And in my ignorance, I assumed they were the same age. Until I met Lois in person and learned she was about twenty years younger than my grandmother! How could this be? I remember sitting in my grandmother's living room observing them, individually, and together. There was familiarity, ease, trust, and sincere affection between them. And for the first time, I saw it. Though my grandmother had two decades of days on her side, it was not a one-sided relationship. It was clear that Lois poured as much into my beloved grandmother as she received from her.

It was on that day, over fifteen years ago in a little room in Pennsylvania, that I purposed in my heart to enlarge my heart to learn to know, appreciate, and love older women. I had peers all around me and had been working with teens for a decade, but I began to crave older women who would pour their wisdom and experience into me. And, once I opened my eyes to see them, they were everywhere! Not mentors necessarily, but a coffee date here, a conversation there, and a three-year Bible study that continues to bless me to do this day all served to increase my understanding of the beauty of multi-generational friendships. I wanted everything they were willing to share and soaked all of it up like a dry sponge in a rainstorm. And then, before I had time to blink, I was the older woman! Forty years old. Married twenty years. Mother of six. And the Lord decided it was time for me to start ringing out my over-soaked sponge. All of those years, all of those women, all of their wisdom ... it needed to be shared with more than me.

Enter Michelle. And Janice. And Danielle. And Linsey. Mandy, Jaclyn, Kelsey, Elisabeth, Angela, Karen, Tiffany, Lindsay, Lauren, and the handful of other young women who joined us for shorter seasons throughout the years.

I was wrong all those years ago when I thought that friendships only worked if both parties were in the same season of life and had much in common. The truth is, the best thing about multi-generational friendships IS the differences! And as believers, we are all called to live out the one anothers of Scripture. Child, teen, adult, senior ... each of us has something to offer the other. And the best thing we can offer - is ourselves.

"My girls" (they graciously permit me to use this phrase ♥) allow me to watch them mature and grow in their walk with the Lord. They confess sin. Share deep and painful struggles. Speak truth. Encourage me with their energy and enthusiasm. Challenge me. Correct and rebuke me. And best of all, they invite me to join in their greatest joys and their deepest sorrows. Not because they have to, but because they want to.

I didn't know how to articulate the deep affection I have for my girls when Michelle asked me her question, but I do now. Though it may look different based on our seasons of life and experience, they live out the one anothers of Scripture as faithfully, as enthusiastically, and as willingly as any of my peers, if not more. They lift me up when I am low, pray for me when I am weak, rejoice with me when I rejoice, and love and accept me, just as I am. And I will never cease to praise God for the precious and beautiful gift of these women. For since I met them, my life has never been the same.

Love one another – John 13:34Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12
Build up one another – Romans 14:19Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Be of the same mind toward one another – Romans 12:16
Give preference to one another – Romans 12:10
Serve one another – Galatians 5:13
Receive one another – Romans 15:7
Be devoted to one another – Romans 12:10
Rejoice or weep with one another – Romans 12:15
Care for one another – 1 Corinthians 12:25
Comfort one another – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
Encourage one another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11Hebrews 3:13
Be compassionate with one another – 1 Peter 3:8
Pray for one another – James 5:16
Confess your faults to one another – James 5:16
Accept one another – Romans 14:1; 15:7
Be truthful with one another – Colossians 3:9