The weaker we are - the stronger we can become!

Last week Dennis and I were unable to join our church body for worship because we needed to stay home while he recovered from shoulder surgery. We enjoyed a nice, quiet morning together, but soon learned we had missed out on a most excellent sermon. I was finally able to sit uninterrupted to listen to it in its entirety this afternoon, and my goodness was I blessed by doing so!

Whether you read my notes below or listen to the actual sermon, I pray you will be equally encouraged, challenged, and convicted to stop focusing on the thorn that causes your particular suffering, but instead focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you in the first place.

Suffering Grace
The strength of weakness

Our text: II Corinthians 12:1-10
It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Our human nature wants the thorns of life removed.
But what if there is a beauty, and a purpose, in KEEPING them?

Our thorns make us weak.
Our weakness makes us needy.
Our need points us to God.
God makes us strong through His grace.

Suffering handled correctly will see an increase of grace in our lives!


●The Picture of the thorn 
(ambiguous because the Scriptures do not name it)
- painful and hurtful, Greek word means "a stake"
- possibly a physical ailment/sickness
- possibly a reoccurring temptation
- possibly the constant opposition to his leadership
- possibly oppression by the enemy

●The Purpose of the thorn
(not at all ambiguous)
- to buffet Paul (buffet = to hold someone down and beat them)
- to keep Paul from being conceited with spiritual pride
- to give Paul a supernatural strength through grace

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an advantage!

God uses discipline to correct past sins
to prevent future sins.

●The Providence of the thorn
- While satan is the one who attacked Paul, God permitted the attack. (Job 1, 2)
- God, in His sovereignty, will use satan's harassment to strengthen and humble His people

Paul's difficulty had Divine design written all over it.
There IS a purpose in our pain for God is WORKING in our pain.

There is a GOOD "bad."
"Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Apparently, he roars to frighten us, he stalks and plots against us, but like the lion at the zoo, he is only free within the parameters of his cage. He roams only where God permits." - Erwin Lutzer

➤The PRAYER v. 8
- Paul naturally and rightly prayed for relief from his thorn
- He prayed repeatedly for relief
- Finally, Paul concluded that God was not going to answer the way he wanted God to answer, and the thorn was going to remain

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an ally!

The thorn is a weapon in the hand of satan - and a tool in the hand of God.

●God does not always heal.
Our health and our happiness are not Gods main concern.
God is concerned with our HOLINESS.

The outer man is dying
the inner man can be renewed day by day!

God healed Paul from the need to be healed.

●God does not always answer prayers in the fashion we prayed them.
He answers: "Yes", "No", "Wait", and sometimes, "Yes, but not the way you imagine it."
God did not remove the thorn from Paul but gave Paul the ability to BEAR the thorn through His grace.
Are you willing to trust God with His answer? Even if it looks nothing like your own will?

➤The PROMISE v. 9
- the thorn will remain but God promises to help Paul ENDURE the pain through the gift of His abundant grace and His sufficient strength
- His grace is CONSTANT
For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16
- His grace is sufficient to fill us up WITH that grace so we are able to face the trials of life day after day no matter how difficult or how long they may last
- His grace flows freely, pouring over us again and again as long as we need it
- As it flows over us, we will GROW in grace!

- Thorns have a value!
They are tools in the hand of God. So put down the hedge clippers!
- We may not want the thorn or like it, but we must appreciate it and trust that the Lord leaves it where it is for a reason
- Our weakness shows His strength because we know we could not do it on our own. We need Him!
- Paul's physical weakness guarded him against spiritual weakness (pride)

Stop focusing on the THORN and focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you.
For the harder we lean on Christ - the stronger we become.

LISTEN to the sermon here ...


Ministry is a JOY!

Planning meetings for ministry events are wonderfully invigorating!
EsPECially when you are good friends with your counterpart.
(I love working with you @decourcyb!)
Beth and I spent the evening planning an event to bring awareness to both our passions - special needs and orphan care - and we cannot wait to see it become a reality! 
Not only is it a privilege to be a part of the body of Christ, it is a JOY to serve with those in it.


A fun fall day!

Thanks to the kindness of a friend who came over to spend time with our post-surgery patient, the rest of us were able to get outside and enjoy a couple of hours downtown! (Thanks, Mike!)

Leaf boat racing and coin diving in the town's fountain.

Obligatory photos with gigantic Christmas decor.

Pizza lunch at Blaze Pizza.
An impromptu dance party groovin' to the loud music in the restaurant! 

πŸ‚πŸ‚ It was a fun and festive way to spend a crisp, gorgeous fall Saturday! πŸ‚πŸ


Happy Day of THANKS!

Because the Lord chose to give me these seven people to walk through life with every day. 
I do not deserve them, but I NEED them.
And God is always faithful to supply our needs. 🧑🧑🧑🧑

Extended Family is another blessing!


A successful surgery.

Surgery day!
Repairing a torn rotator cuff in D’s right shoulder.
The surgery was successful and not as intensive as originally planned, which means recovery will be faster and easier. πŸ™ŒπŸΌ πŸ™ŒπŸΌ πŸ™ŒπŸΌ
This is a BIG deal because trying to keep Dennis Lee Eastman DOWN and STILL is next to impossible.
In pre-op, the Doc considered my request for pain meds laced with sleeping narcotics for just a few seconds before laughing out loud and denying me. πŸ™„πŸ˜œπŸ˜‚
Hey. You have not because you ask not, right? <grin>

Now ...
-The patient is resting
-Dinner has been made
-Children are showered
-Movies are playing
... and pajamas and a cozy blanket are in my immediate future.
(In between managing hourly ice packs and pain meds of course!)


Female Family Member FUN!

A whole weekend of mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and nieces!
First stop - Dennis' birth mom, Sue, sisters Amy and Natalie, and niece Gillian.
We were blessed to find D's birth family 14 years ago - and we are grateful!
They have always welcomed and accepted us and this weekend was no exception.
We met for lunch at a fun restaurant, talked, laughed, took photos, and then spent time meandering through the shops downtown. It was a wonderful afternoon!

Sue took me to see my other sister-in-law, Kara, and we happened to arrive just when her husband's
newly remodeled truck had been delivered. Great photo op! 

Look at these pumpkins!
The biggest ones I have ever seen - on someone's porch! 
We stopped by Amy's house, which is always festive and adorable for every season,
and I could not pass up the opportunity to pose with the gigantic gourds.

Second stop - Mom Eastman and Denise!
Mom just finished round four of six chemo treatments, but you would never know it.
She has not been sick one day. Tired, yes. Sick, no. By the wonderful grace of God!
We enjoyed the afternoon and dinner together at Denise's house and Mom made us laugh by playing with her hat to make herself look like Mr. Magoo and talking about her bald head.
She has a fantastic attitude and intends to walk through her cancer trial with humor and grace.
Well done, Mom! You have already accomplished your goal!

My niece, Carly.
She is 17 and it was a Friday night so we took a selfie right away before she bolted. HAHA!
Love this girl, pray for her, and wish I could be with her more.

Poor Denise was sick while I was there (though she still maintained her excellent hosting skills) so she did not want to be captured on film. I, however, wanted to have proof we were together, so I came up with this idea. Our goodbye hug caught on film with her face hiding in my shoulder. Perfect!

Last stop - CC!
This was the first time in 12 years of knowing each other that we were ALONE!
We are always surrounded by children, husbands, or extended family, so we thoroughly enjoyed uninterrupted conversation and doing things we wouldn't/couldn't do with children clinging to us.
Our first activity - Color Me Mine! She - is crafty, creative and skilled. I - am not.
But I let her pull me far out of my comfort zone, and we spent two hours painting coffee mugs for each other. She kept assuring me that she would LOVE whatever I made, but we will see if she means it when we get the final product in a few weeks. "A cup only a sister could love." HA!
We followed our creativity session with a delicious lunch and reflexology massages.
(THAT is another story for another time!)

A lot happened in two days!
And I am thankful the Lord allowed me the time and resources to enjoy a weekend with these ladies.
Thank you Sue, Natalie, Amy, Gillian, Kara, Mom Eastman, Denise, Carly, and CC!
I look forward to our next visit. ❤



The only reason I am kissing my wallet is because I cannot kiss the person who FOUND IT!
•in a shopping cart
•in the cart return cage
•in the middle of a parking lot
•at Costco
•on a Saturday
•where half of America decided to go shopping

Not only did this fantastic human find my wallet, but he/she also turned it in to the store manager - with every single item still inside

Grateful does not begin to describe my emotions.
Thank you - thank you - THANK YOU whoever you are! I may not know your name, but I will always remember your kindness!


A good and faithful servant!

The man, the myth, the legend!
Today I had the honor of meeting Dr. Nabil Costa (the man who opened the doors to the Middle East and beckoned Dennis to walk through them) and he was everything I thought he would be.
Gentle, sincere, compassionate, and filled with an unquenchable passion to serve students with special needs and learning needs.
I attended a luncheon on Dennis' behalf (while he serves in Cambodia) to celebrate the publication of a book written specifically for teachers in the Middle East.
Professors from Biola University, Cal State Fullerton, and Cal Poly Pomona who authored/co-authored a chapter of the book were in attendance, and the energy and excitement in the room was unmistakable.

Everyone was so warm and personable that it did not occur to me until halfway through the luncheon that I was surrounded by experts in the field of Special Education. Not only experts - but advocates. And as a mother of children who have to fight hard to succeed in school, I was moved to gentle tears as I listened to these experts share their specific areas of focus and why they do what they do.
'Grateful' is too weak a word to describe my feelings for their efforts, and their hearts.

Dr. Costa was asked to share some thoughts with our small group prior to his public lecture that was to follow. He spoke only five minutes, but when he was done he could have given an altar call to a room of a thousand people and half of them would have followed him to the mission field, an orphanage, a Special Education school, or to sell popsicles in the Arctic! He speaks straight from the heart, and that heart has clearly been shaped and softened by the God who has fearfully and wonderfully made us. I was not prepared for his challenge, and yet when he finished speaking I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout, "Amen, brother! AAAAAA-men!"

As soon as I returned home I sent a text to Dennis describing the event and expressed my awe/enthusiasm/conviction/gratefulness for what Dr. Costa shared with us, and this was his response: Nabil is a mover. He has the ability to mobilize with words and passion. He knows the target and goes straight for the center. 
Dennis considers Dr. Costa a spiritual and professional mentor, and now I know why. I had the privilege to witness his mind and heart in action this afternoon and I left wanting much, much more! Thank you, Nabil!

Because I didn't have pen and paper available to capture all of Dr. Costa's words, this summary will not be perfect, but I think I caught enough to accurately communicate his point.

He began with this parable from Scripture:
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’
And he who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’
He who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ Matthew 25:14-19

-The guy who did the least is the one who talked the most.
(the first two men said 14 words, the last one said 42)
-The lazy person lists every reason why he did not do something - instead of using that energy to actually complete the task.
-Instead of DOING, the lazy man TALKS.

-Jesus kept His apostles busy.
He trained them to work. To minister. To serve.
He did not train them to be lazy, apathetic, or selfish.
He is the model. The apostles were His protΓ©gΓ©s.
As Christians, we must follow Christ's example and do the work of the Father.
No excuses.

-When God calls us, we must answer the call and get to work!
He has gifted each of us in unique ways and we must use those gifts to serve and bless others.

And for Dr. Costa and the dozens of men and women who serve in Lebanon and Jordan and other pockets of the Middle East, the work God has called them to do is 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
Because they do it well, I am confident they will hear the Master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" Matthew 5:23

This is the book they collaboratively wrote and published!
Strategies for Inclusive Education for Children
For Better Community
Smart but Different (words next to the yellow bulb)


Happy 80th Birthday, Bill!

80 years of LIFE!
We just celebrated 80 YEARS graciously granted by the Lord to my step-dad, Bill. 
We actually pulled off a SURPRISE party and were able to bless him with an evening of his favorite foods and desserts, games about his life, devotions from two close friends, and tributes from his children and first grandchild while surrounded by family and friends who love him.
As Dennis quoted that night, “Legacy is not what others will say about you when you are gone. Legacy is about people who will do things differently because they knew you.”
You have loved and served your family well, Bill.
It was an honor to celebrate your 80th year with you! ♥


A Night of BEAUTY - and - COMMUNITY.

1: the quality in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit: loveliness
2: a beautiful person or thing 
3: a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality

attractiveness, beauteousness, beautifulness, comeliness, cuteness, fairness, gorgeousness, handsomeness, looks, loveliness, prettiness, sightliness

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

And last night, the Lord drew seven women together and used them to remind each other of the beauty of motherhood, the beauty of special/learning needs, and the beauty of the body of Christ.

I used to plan a detailed agenda for nights like these, wanting everything to be "perfect" and leaving no stone unturned to ensure that each woman would feel blessed and encouraged by the time the evening came to a close. I wanted every need met and every sorrow turned into joy. And then, with my perfect plans placed before me I would pray, "Lord, BLESS IT!" And because He is a faithful God, He did. Even though I was asking for my agenda to be blessed. Not His.
Now, after many hard lessons from His hand, I simply pray, "Lord, do whatever You want!"
And He does.
And every single time, it looks nothing like I imagined it would.

Last night was no exception.
Dennis bought me the yellow tulips the night before he left for Cambodia. I love tulips, and the vivid yellow color of this bunch is particularly stunning. I chose to use them as the focal point of the treat tray for our Mom's Night, and when I looked at them again after closing the door behind the last mom to leave, it struck me that the flowers captured the theme of our night together as women. 
the beauty of humility
the beauty of truth
the beauty of transparency
the beauty of empathy
the beauty of compassion
the beauty of sharing
the beauty of listening
the beauty of affection
the beauty of prayer

Because each woman was willing to display these characteristics so freely, we connected with each other in a way that was both needed and desired. And a community was born. It is not a closed community, for all are welcome, and all will be received. We need each other. We have a responsibility toward one another. And with God's grace, we will faithfully and successfully live out the beautiful charge in Scripture:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25

Father, thank You for an incredibly uplifting night of mutual understanding and edification. You knew the need of every woman before she walked through the door, and it was You who gave each one the courage to share the realities of her days and the hurts of her heart. It was, truly, a night of beauty, and one that will not be forgotten. Thank You, Lord, for Your abundant love for Your children.
How we need You!


DEPRESSION. An excellent and encouraging sermon!

Sunday morning I sat down in our church sanctuary expecting to hear my pastor's voice resound from the pulpit, but instead, the Lord used another godly man to break down a wonderful Psalm to encourage the hearts of those who battle with depression. And, it was, by far, the BEST sermon I have ever heard preached on this particular passage. His exegesis of the chapter was biblical and on point, but what impressed me more was the gentleness and sincerity that rang out clearly in each word he spoke. His compassion for those who fight against depression was palpable, and his hope that our God can help and heal is apparent.

I could barely keep up with him as I scrawled notes across the pages of my notebook. There is so much truth tucked within these eleven verses! I included the passage here, along with my favorite quotes, but this is a sermon that should be heard and studied in full. Therefore, I included a link so everyone who desires to watch it (and be blessed) may do so!

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls;
all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42

➤ Depression has always troubled God's people, therefore, it needs to be addressed and responded to biblically.
“I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” - C.H. Spurgeon, preaching to his congregation

➤ The Psalmist paints a vivid picture of what the spiritual battle of depression looks and feels like by sharing his personal reasons for his depression and then declaring the remedy for his depression.
He is not content to remain in his depressed state.
He stops listening to his own voice and starts speaking to himself about the truth of who God is.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11

➤ Depression is a real battle, and a battle in which the believer must not surrender - but FIGHT!
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Psalm 42:5

➤ When you feel defeated, dry, despondent, depressed ... do you long for and seek after God more than anything else?
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1,2

➤ The cure to depression is not always immediate.
There will be seasons of living between hope and despair.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life. (v. 8)
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (v. 9)

➤ When in the depths of great sorrow, we as believers can recognize God's sovereign hand while also recognizing His faithful kindness toward us.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7,8

Listen to this fantastic sermon in full here.


This and that.

Last weekend was all about family because we celebrated Bill's 80th birthday.
We are only (all) together about four times each year, so it makes our time together even more special.
CC and I kicked off Friday with a Beach Day because it was a GORGEOUS day and our kids needed to get fresh air in their lungs and move their limbs.
A three-mile walk, french fries and milkshakes at Ruby's, and a good hour of playing in the ocean was the perfect way to kick off the weekend!
Thanks for playing with us, Millers!

I LOVE this shot of Micah!
Luke is the family photographer, so when Micah had a singing gig at a coffee house a few weeks ago, Luke offered to do a photo shoot for his promotional posts.
He captured half a dozen terrific shots, but this one is my favorite.
It fills me with delight to see my guys working together and serving each other. I can only imagine how they will serve each other in the future!
They are not just brothers - but friends.

These two.
Peas in the proverbial pod.
Ellie is 10% me and 90% Dennis.
While she needs me for specific reasons and is soothed by me in her moments of trauma, Dennis is the one who speaks her language.
They understand each other.
They think like each other.
They share similar weaknesses and struggles.
And they share many strengths.
Which is why they understand each other! And it is beautiful to watch.
Dennis never imagined he would have a daughter, and he certainly didn't imagine she would be a female version of himself, but I know he is thrilled with the affectionate connection they share with one another. And I pray Ellie will always know and appreciate his love for her!

This photo makes me laugh every time I look at it.
If I was going to caption it I would write, "The not-always-exciting lifestyle of younger siblings who are forced to spend countless hours on fields/courts because their older siblings play a sport."
Since there is no sense in driving back and forth, we also use the time to add to our 12,000 steps/six-mile daily goal, explore interesting stores nearby, or simply enjoy the beauty and peace of the day.
Now we will have to find creative ways to stay busy in the dark now that daylight savings time has ended!

THIS! My new reading stack!
These books have been sitting patiently in my Wish List for almost a year and were finally released with birthday funds.
<insert image of a Happy Dance here!>
I am an avid reader, but I have to work extremely hard to discipline myself to read Scripture first lest I get lost in an excellent book and forsake the best book.
I will choose a biography of a godly saint over any other book, for I learn much from the lives of those who have gone before me, and crave the depth and devotion they have for Christ.
Let the encouragement BEGIN!

Happy Monday, everyone!
I pray the weekend prepared you for what lies before you this week, and if not, remember - the Lord PROMISES never to leave us or forsake us, and He will equip us for what He calls us to do. We don't need to be ready before it happens. We need to be ready WHEN it happens. And He is always faithful!
As John MacArthur says, "God always provides for what He demands."
Such a beautiful truth!
For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. Matthew 6:8
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 8:31-34

Old friends are precious!

These are two of my oldest friends in the world ... Kathy and Chrissy.
I met them when I was four years old, and here we are, 43 years later,
still connected in a way that is precious and unique.
Karen (their mom) made their home my second home, and I truly felt like part of their family.
It was a delight connecting with them yesterday!
And even better, my brother was in town so he got to see them too!