6.30.2018

One of my FAVORITES!

Another book - devoured!
If you have not been introduced to Brother Andrew, make it happen - SOON! You will never forget the experience, and you will never be the same.
He celebrated his 90th birthday this year.
63 years of serving the Lord without fear, without shame, and with a boldness and passion that is extraordinary, and should not be the exception, but the rule.
How I wish I could meet him, for he is one of my favorite giants of the faith.
Dennis and I listened to God's Smuggler for the first time on a 12-hour drive and did something radical in response. A huge leap of faith to be sure, and one we have never regretted. And now, after reading the sequel, I am feeling an even more intense pull to make a significant change in our family, our lifestyle, and our influence in our community. Dennis and I have already been in discussion about this, so this just added fuel to the fire! And we are quite confident that the timing is not a coincidence.

As always, I am including some of my favorite quotes here to encourage and inspire you, as well as tempt you to go meet Andrew yourself! He is a brother every believer should have in their acquaintance. But I caution you: Be prepared to be convicted! He does not pull ANY spiritual punches. But he always strikes with love. And truth.
I pray I will become as brave and bold as this brother!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our faith in Christ must become a way of life, wherever we are. When that happens, it won't be long before you begin to see the entire world, and your part in it, with different eyes. You will discover that God is opening doors for you to serve Him in ways you never thought possible.

... the next time you see a disturbing news story, ask, "Is there a church there?" and then get down on your knees and pray for it.

After all, the Bible, the Word of God, changes people. And changed people change the situations around them.

Be on time. When God calls, or when His people are in need, be there.

The door may seem closed, but it's only closed the way a supermarket door is closed. It stays shut when you remain at a distance, but as you deliberately move toward it, a magic eye above it sees you coming, and the door opens. God is waiting for us to walk forward in obedience so he can open the door for us to serve Him.

If we are passive rather than active, always waiting for the door to open rather than stepping out in faith, then we are not planning to reach the world for Christ.

I believe it is better to obey when you think God is speaking than to disobey when you know He is speaking.

What's the difference between a hero and a coward? Both are ordinary people, both are scared, and both are running. But the hero is running in the right direction.

The real calling of God is not to a certain place or career, but to everyday obedience.

Nationalism can be a wonderful thing, but if our desire for political independence is greater than our desire to evangelize the world, we can never win against the forces of evil.

"Andrew, when they kill me, it will be for speaking, not for being silent." (quote from a pastor in an underground church where Christianity was illegal)

As long as we have an enemy image of any group of people, we cannot love them. God will not call us to any nation or people that we do not shed tears for when we pray for them.

The believers in that village didn't want anything material ... all they wanted was spiritual communion and companionship. They needed to know they weren't alone in their struggle. To me, that is what Open Doors is all about - going into the world and simply being there as the hands and feet of the Lord. Going to our hurting brothers and sisters and saying, "We are the Lord's presence with you. We share in your pain and we care that you are suffering."
➙ I LOVE this quote because it applies to anyone, anywhere, in any struggle. A widow, a single parent, an infertile woman, birth parents who have had their children take away, a neglected spouse, a sick child, a child of divorce, a prisoner, or a dying person.
They don't need us to "fix it." They need US.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, 
yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? I John 3:17

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

6.24.2018

Man is disappointing - but God is faithful.

Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us. 
- Spurgeon

If any man thinks ill of you do not be angry with him,
for you are far worse than he thinks you to be. 
- Spurgeon

I read these quotes almost every day.
In a culture where respect and kindness are rare, it is important to remember that
wonderfully convicting, humbling, and true saying, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

It is easy to get frustrated, irritated, and angry
when the words and actions of others knock against our core values and convictions.
It is easy to judge others, assuming we know the whole story when in truth, we know only parts.
It is easy to take things personally instead of seeking to understand.
It is easy to take offense rather than give someone the benefit of the doubt.

But the truth is, we cannot control anyone else.
We cannot control their actions, words, thoughts, motives, or convictions.
But this should not be surprising because an even bigger truth is that we cannot control ourselves.
For I do not understand my own actions.
For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
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 7:15-20

Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us. 
- Spurgeon

If any man thinks ill of you do not be angry with him,
for you are far worse than he thinks you to be. 
- Spurgeon

These quotes are excellent and true, but they are meaningless if they cannot be supported by Scripture.
And Scripture has much to say about the wickedness of the heart of man.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

And He said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft,
murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Mark 7:20-23

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
Romans 3:10

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight,
so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Psalm 51:3-5

Praise God He did not leave us without a remedy for our sin!
He sent His Son to bear the penalty for our sin by dying on a cross in order to bridge the chasm between God and man. And then, He rose from the dead, defeating death in order that we may have LIFE!
Not just any life, but forgiven, restored, ABUNDANT life!

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
I John 1:9

The Lord is merciful and gracious, 
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 
He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. 
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 
so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; 
as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. 
Psalm 103:8-12

It is easy to be disappointed by man, for man is thoroughly disappointing.
BUT GOD ...

If we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself. 
II Timothy 2:13

6.20.2018

Collecting Coins and Waiting on the Lord!

For the past two years, the Lord has been doing an intense work in our family by calling us to understand, support, and take action in Orphan/Foster Care. We have been always been enthusiastic supporters of friends and family who adopted and/or fostered children and believe wholeheartedly that it is a necessary, worthy, and Gospel driven ministry. But in 2016 the Lord made it clear to us that "Cheering is not enough. It is time for the Eastmans to DO something!" So, with blind faith, we took our first steps of obedience.
Step #1
Step #2
Step #3
We were stalled for a time because families with six children cannot take in more children through foster care, so we waited until Micah turned eighteen to leap that temporary hurdle.
Now, we get to take Step #4!
A tangible step that is necessary and important. Finances.

In California, while the level of income is not (necessarily) an issue, the county/agencies verify that monies received by foster care families will be used for the foster children, not to pay personal bills and expenses. This is a wonderful and important requirement and one that forced us to reassess our finances so we can Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field,
and after that build your house (Proverbs 24:27) 
in order to take Step #5 - Apply!

Our faith was small when we first faced this giant, for we know it will take longer than we like, but small faith is enough because we know we deal with a God who is not paused or thwarted by earthly hurdles. When He calls us to action, He does not ask for our opinions or our excuses. (See the singed eyebrows of Moses for details.) He wants to see ACTION. Obedience. Full surrender. And because He is a loving and gracious Father, He uses the body of Christ to affirm and encourage us in the calling.

Three weeks ago I sat in our church sanctuary with a sweet sister in Christ, to say goodbye. She moved across the country to begin a new life with her family in the beauty of the south. We have studied God’s Word together, prayed for each other, and encouraged one another for the past few years, and have mutually stirred each other up in the faith. After we prayed, she handed me an envelope and said, "This is a love gift for you. It is a small token of my gratefulness for what you have invested in me." We smiled, dabbed our tears, and hugged goodbye.
Later, I opened the card, and five paper bills fell into my lap. I couldn't believe it. Unexpected, not-part-of-our-paycheck money.
I sat there, staring at it, and felt like the Lord stepped up behind me to speak loudly and clearly in my ear, "Do you see that, Michelle? I can make things appear out of nowhere! I am not bound by salaries and expenses and seemingly large obstacles. I am God. You - are not. So stop trying to figure out the "how," and walk in obedience, one step at a time, and watch Me work."

I continued to sit, for a long time. Praying, repenting, asking for renewed faith and proper perspective.
And then, I placed the card on our kitchen windowsill to remember that day, pulled a large glass jar from our cupboard, laid the bills inside, and ...
The Eastman Adoption/Foster Care Savings Jar became a part of our home.
(Dennis calls it an Ebenezer Stone.♥)


Basically, all monies earned/received outside of D's paycheck (child care, dog sitting, speaking engagements, loose change, etc. etc.) go into the jar. Each time it fills up we will cash it in and make a double/triple payment on a bill (car, student loan, child's braces, etc.) until we are debt free and can follow the Lord wherever He takes us in the Foster Care/Adoption world. For it is a big world, with a myriad of ways to serve.
Right now our passion is to do Emergency Foster Care for babies, but as we see in Scripture, a desire does not always equal a calling. (I.e., the Lord's refusal to let King David build His temple.) The Lord might want us financially free to help fund other families who are adopting, or start a ministry for birth parents who are broken and hurting because though their rights were terminated, they love and want their children. He may have us open our home to support single mothers until they are able to support themselves. He may fill our home with babies until they are reunified with their parents, or adopted. He may even move us to another country to join in the work others are already doing to rescue and serve children in need.
The options are endless!
And even better - our God is without limits!

When we explained the purpose of the jar to our children, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie ran to their piggy banks and nearly emptied them, dollar bills and all, and the teens raided their own coin collections and wallets. We LOVE this! Our entire family is in agreement about fostering/adopting, which is incredibly important.
But this is not surprising, because when the Lord calls the PARENTS to foster and/or adopt, He also calls the CHILDREN. ❤

We have no idea how long it will take or what it will look like, but the Lord DOES.
So for now - we will wait. We will pray. We will collect coins.
And we will watch the Lord do what He does best - His Will.

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 27:13, 14

6.16.2018

Thankful He is OURS!


This man.

Most people see the lighter, fun side of Dennis.
The surfer.
The comedian.
The man who uses broken tree trunks as weights when camping.
The rock music aficionado.
The "Superfan" of football and all things sports.
The storyteller.

But there is another side ... the man that was captured in this photo.
Focused, intense, thoughtful, purposeful, and driven.

The man who worked three jobs for eighteen years to keep me home with our children.
The man who fought against his ADHD and dyslexia to secure a Ph.D.,
taking one class at a time for seven years so he could live out his dream of training teachers.
The man who spends hours preparing lessons/presentations regardless of who or what he is teaching.
The man who specifically prayed for the Lord to remove him from the "comfortable" and place him where he could grow and better understand the needs of others - and became the Principal of an inner-city school where the Lord changed the direction of his heart and his life.
The man who knows he does not know enough, so he seeks wisdom and counsel from godly men who will speak the truth, even when the truth is hard to hear - and hard to do.
The man who became a student of our children, learning how/when to approach them, and intentionally invests in them, prays for them, writes to them, and engages with them.
A man whom they will one day not only call Father - but Friend.
The man who willingly pours into young men who seek him out, with humility and grace.
The man who speaks up for those who cannot speak for themselves, using his energy, his time, his studies, and his position to advocate on their behalf.
Out of obedience - with JOY - because he knows this is his calling.
The man who has protected, defended, encouraged, supported, loved, and challenged me for 24 years of marriage, never once holding me back from my calling and passion to minister to the brokenhearted. He has hugged, prayed with, delivered flowers to, and listened to the countless women (and couples) the Lord has filtered through our home, and they know his kindness and concern are genuine.
A man whose life mantras are:
Begin with the end in mind.
Win the moment.
Be a trier, not a crier.
Act like what you do matters - because it does.

This is the man I live with.
This is the man Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie call "Dad."
And it is for this man we praise God that He chose Dennis - for us.

6.14.2018

Delighting in each other.

One of the best things about discipleship is being pushed to discover and understand things about yourself that you would not seek on your own. Especially when the woman leading you toward the discovery has been walking with the Lord longer, can navigate Scripture blindfolded, and has acquired godly wisdom far beyond your years. Strength and comfort are found in her encouragement, and her support propels you to keep going when your discovery leads you to something unappealing that you would prefer to shove back under the sand rather than take home and study.

I always tell my girls, "I will never ask you to do something I am not willing to do myself." Because of this, they enjoy listening to me share about my discipleship adventures with Ginger. Her standards and expectations exceed my own, much to the delight of my girls, who declare, while laughing, "Now you know how WE feel!" They did, however, sit wide-eyed while I reported that after giving me an assignment, Ginger checked in to confirm our monthly date and said, "Make sure to bring your assignment with you. If it is not complete we will need to reschedule." I looked at them grinning and asked, "How would you feel if I wouldn't let you come to COMMITTED if you didn't do the monthly assignments?" They looked horrified, and one of them replied, "I would be kicked out!"

When I relayed this exchange to Ginger the following night at our meeting, she laughed and said, "Well, you did ask for this! And, you are not in the certificate program of discipleship, my friend. You are in the Ph.D. program! I push you a lot harder than I push others because I know you can handle it." I laughed with her and responded, "Just because I can handle it doesn't mean I LIKE it!" She just smiled.

What was the assignment? A study of the importance/necessity/priority of reading God's Word DAILY.
And this verse was at the heart of it.
Revelation 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me."
The question: What is revealed about the heart of Jesus here?
He is Present
He is Persistent
He is Purposeful
He Pursues us
He is Personal

I send my assignments via e-mail so she can go over them before we meet. It allows us to dive right into a discussion rather than spend our time reading. For the first time in a year and a half, she sent my notes back to me with this line attached: “You totally missed the point of this assignment. Try again, please. Hint: RELATIONSHIP.”
!!!!!!!!!!! <insert shaking head, rolling eyes, and laughter>

Revelation 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me."
What is revealed about the heart of Jesus here?

He is Present - The Lord willingly chooses to be near me, never leaving or forsaking me. He is always present. Always ready/willing/desiring to talk to me and hear from me.
He is Persistent - He chooses to knock. He could kick the door in, float through the door, demand that I open it. But He doesn't. He knocks - over and over again - waiting for me to open it for Him.
He is Purposeful - He comes to me. He calls to me. He asks to be invited in - with the purpose of interacting with me.
He Pursues - "I stand at the door and knock." He CHOOSES to come to me. He is not calling me to Him. He comes to me. Not because He needs me - but because He WANTS me.
He is Personal - Strangers do not come to the door with the desire to connect or relate. They are selling something, wanting something from the person inside. Jesus comes to the door to offer one thing - Himself.

This is such a beautiful, intimate image of our Lord! But one I found foreign and uncomfortable when I was a child, teen, and young adult. I believed in Him and I believed He loved me, but with a distant, dutiful love. I approached God with confidence and faith because I knew His character. I could delight in Him but I could not see how or why He would delight in ME. I wanted to believe it - I tried to believe it - but it eluded me. All I could see were my failings. 

BUT GOD ... in His faithfulness, showed me where my thinking was wrong. I still have to fight for control of my thoughts at times because for decades, when I imagined how God viewed me when I approached Him, it looked like this:
"Michelle is here? Hmm. Let me see her stats, please. Oh, my. So many sins. And the same ones over and over. Why can't she do things right? But, she did obey some of My commands so I suppose I should give her credit for that. Her sins far outweigh her obedience, but at least she tried. Okay. Let her in."

But when I read the Revelation 3 passage, along with other verses in Scripture describing God's love for His children and His people, I clearly see the errors in my thinking. Because the truth is, when I approach the Throne of Grace, THIS is how the Lord responds:
"Michelle is here? WONDERFUL! I have been looking forward to our time together! I always enjoy the way she talks to Me and listens to Me, and I love her desire to know Me more. Please, bring her in!
I cannot wait to see her!"

It is this scenario that brings tears to my eyes, for even as I read it now, with all the years of legalism, disbelief, and fear behind me, I still marvel at the truth that God sees me - He knows me - and He wants me. And now, I rejoice in the knowledge that we can delight - in each other.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. Psalm 18:19