11.15.2019

The beautiful theology - of REST.

Five years ago our pastor prepared and preached a fantastic sermon that opened up a world of freedom for me as a wife, a mother, and a believer. I think of it often, quote from it more, and encourage others with the truths of his message. The Theology of Rest.
After wonderingly and joyfully pondering this sermon for weeks afterward, I actually adopted a life mantra: "Even Jesus took naps!" Because He did so without apology, shame, or guilt.

Did you know that in all of the accounts of Jesus sleeping during the day (AKA napping), it is never recorded that He awoke in a panic declaring, "Oh no! I was ASLEEP? This is awful! I could have healed 32 more people! I could have preached three more sermons! What a waste of a day!"
Nope. Not a one.
In fact, when you read the accounts, He is usually awakened by his fearful and faithless disciples whom He rebukes after taking care of whatever caused them to panic in the first place. Scripture does not say so, but I sometimes wonder if Jesus thought, "Seriously? You woke me up from a delightful nap for that?!?"

As the Lord continues to draw me into a better and more biblical understanding of the need for rest in my personal life, He is surrounding me with sermons, writings, quotes, and Scriptures that affirm His lesson.

I pray others will be encouraged by the notes from this sermon and will discover a new way to view, consider, and implement consistent and purposeful rest in their own lives.


At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”
But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. Mark 1:32-39


Jesus was busy, but not sinfully busy.
His pattern was to work - and withdraw.

Jesus Paused
He had been working all day, teaching, preaching, healing, and performing miracles.
The following morning He slips into the wilderness ALONE - away from the noise and needs of the crowd. "Be still ..."

When life is busy and ministry is thriving – we need to REST!

Jesus engaged in life – preaching, healing, training, enjoying fellowship – but personal time with the Father was His priority. He knew there were needs upon needs: sick people, hurting people, dying people. He knew, yet He left them to commune with the Father.

Engage disengage engage disengage. The rhythm of Jesus.
daily, weekly, monthly, yearly 

Being still consistently teaches us to be receptive to His voice because He is ALWAYS speaking! 

- Retreats affirm the priority of the Spiritual
- Retreats slow.us.down, allowing our souls to catch up with our bodies
Time with God cannot be rushed. It is like a three-course meal, relaxing and refreshing.
- Retreat affirms God’s help in life’s challenges.
Rest/reflect/recharge.
(See the story of Elijah in the wilderness - I Kings 19. He was about to give up but the Lord starts him up again! A wonderful example of God's care for our personal refreshment in a time of weariness.)

When we do not slow down it is an issue of PRIDE.
We think we are indispensable. “If I don’t do/organize/plan "xyz" then it will all fall apart.” 
Shows a lack of faith. If YOU are not the one "doing," success will not happen.
The focus is on self instead of the Savior and therefore, sin.

Humility check: Is God not big enough to handle things during your time of rest?!?

Jesus Prayed 
His significant moments are marked by prayer. (His baptism, Gethsemane, His crucifixion)
There is a NEED to pray.
Jesus IS God. And yet, He understood the importance and need to spend time with the Father in prayer.
He lived as a man. Men need strength, patience, long-suffering, wisdom, and rest. 
Jesus was in total dependence on the Father.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38

Understanding our weakness makes us see how desperately we need to seek the Lord in prayer. 
When we know how weak we are we will run to the throne seeking wisdom and strength.

➤ Jesus Prioritized
“Everyone is looking for you,” the disciples declared. 
They wanted to be healed.
But that was not why Jesus came to earth. He came to preach the Word.
"But He said to them, 'Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come.'"

Jesus had to keep His focus – especially once His popularity rose.
Doing the will of the Father was that focus.

Healing/casting out demons were all good things to do, but they weren't the BEST of the good.
Eternal salvation is much better than present healing.

Jesus DID NOT do it all.
Nor should we, if we are to follow His example.

There will always be needs – even dire needs – but that does not mean we can, or should, respond to every single one.

Love God and love others by saying "No."
You cannot compromise your time with Him or, your time of quiet to be refreshed by Him.

Focus happens when we take the time to disengage, step back, and observe the big picture.
-push away the non-essentials
-pull together the important
-prioritize
And then, re-engage.
We can do more when we do LESS.

11.13.2019

There is a better way!


Do you ever wonder if this is what the Lord sometimes sees when He looks at us?

His children, trudging through life with huge, heavy, often unnecessary loads they have placed upon their own backs, creating a burden that is so overwhelming and exhausting they cannot sustain it; and must surrender to the weight of their burden by being buried under it, or tossed onto their backs because of it. 

How grieved He must be to witness such a sight when He has opened His arms wide,
graciously and lovingly inviting 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 humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30


THIS is what the Lord wants to provide for us!

Rest.
Pure, contended, sweet, refreshing rest.

Come to ME, Jesus says.
Take MY yoke.
Learn from ME.

Will we respond?
Will we walk to the Master?
Lay our burdens at His feet?
Trust Him with the overwhelming load we have carried for far too long?
Will we listen to Him?
Will we learn from Him?

He is a gentle Master, a humble Master, and His promises are true.

We need only COME.
And we will find rest for our souls.

11.09.2019

He's HOME!


He’s HOME!
And all is now right in the Eastman world.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for Dennis while he served in Cambodia.
It was a successful trip with much enthusiasm and energy expressed by the Khmer teachers during the daily workshops and personal interactions.
They share a mutual admiration and affection to be sure!

Cambodia and its people captured a piece of D’s heart almost a decade ago, and he prays they will be able to “mutually encourage one another in the faith” for decades to come!

Welcome home, D!
We are always - always - better WITH you! 

11.04.2019

Mindful Monday. "Comforting Truth"

From the pen of Octavius Winslow.
May his words encourage you this morning, and fill your mind with truth to think on all week long.


"The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer." Psalm 6:9

"You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted" Psalm 10:17

"This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles" Psalm 34:6

"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles" Psalm 34:17

"Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice"Psalm 55:17

"God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer" Psalm 66:19

"I love the LORD, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy" Psalm 116:1

"I call on the LORD in my distress, and He answers me" Psalm 120:1

"He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them." Psalm 145:19

"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their prayer" 1 Peter 3:12


Christian! God is near at hand whenever you approach Him in prayer.
Oh, comforting truth! You have a God at hand . . .
to listen to the softest breath of prayer,
to listen to every confession of sin,
to listen to every cry of need,
to listen to every utterance of sorrow,
to listen to every wail of woe,
to listen to every appeal for counsel, strength and support!

Arise, O my soul! and give yourself to prayer, for God is near at hand to hear and answer you!

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

11.03.2019

Back in the land he loves!

Dennis has safely landed and already hit the ground running in Cambodia!
He arrived for his annual visit to Asian Hope with eager anticipation and enthusiasm for the week ahead.
He and his colleague will spend the days training the Khmer teachers and encouraging the Administration and Staff of Asian Hope to keep pressing on for the sake of the children they serve, not growing weary, for the work they do matters and brings glory to God.
Praise God for the men and women who choose to serve in hard places, ministering to the broken, neglected, and despised.
Every day they die to themselves in order to meet physical needs, educational needs, and model the love of Christ to those who need His power, strength, and grace to carry on each day.
How grateful we are that the Lord has chosen Dennis to be a small part of that work!
He has had the privilege of serving with his Cambodian brothers and sisters for almost a decade, and has been blessed through their kindness, generosity, hospitality, and beautiful example of what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus for those in need.

I asked him how we could pray for him this week and he responded with these requests:
-Clarity in presentations (translators are essential)
-Receptiveness amongst teachers
-Enthusiasm to try new things to serve students

A fitting Scripture to capture D's time with the wonderful servants of God at Asian Hope ...
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
I Thessalonians 5:11

10.29.2019

Three Months of Loving and Learning!

Today marks the third month that we have had the privilege of caring for Baby E! ❤
And what a JOY it has been!

Rather than sharing my thoughts about these past months, I collected the thoughts of the other seven Eastmans by asking them the following question.
What are three things you have
- learned about yourself
- learned about foster care
- learned about sacrificing
- learned about serving
because we have Baby E in our home?

Their thoughtful responses encouraged and inspired me, and I hope they do the same for you!

Dennis
- Caring for kids in the foster system not only invites you into the “why and what” of their lives but also requires you to ask “how” can I reflect the love of Jesus to serve them most effectively.
- Serving is never easy, cheap, or convenient, but it is ALWAYS necessary, and best when shared.
- Each family member has an opportunity to exercise their gifts toward Baby E in a way that is unique and impactful, but the common denominator is an attitude of willing service.

Micah
- A team effort is the only way to do foster care correctly.
- Sacrificing even the smallest bits of time to help out provides a huge blessing to the ones carrying the heaviest part of the load.
- Caring for Baby E has given me more patience and a kinder heart.

Luke
- I can always do more.
- Giving anything requires sacrifice. These kids need much, so we should sacrifice what we have.
- Service is the Gospel in action. Jesus served. We must serve.

Caleb
- I discovered that I really like working with kids, especially little ones.
- I can't be a hypocrite. I can't tell others to serve if I'm not sacrificing in order to serve someone else.
- When it comes to foster care and taking care of children in foster care, no one can keep the boat floating by themselves … everyone has to do their part.

Josiah
- Instead of thinking about myself I should think about others.
- While Baby E is with us I want him to have the best life until he can go home to his mom, so I need to serve him instead of myself.
- Taking care of babies has taught me to take care of what they need before doing what I want to do even though I really want to do it.

Isaiah
- Foster care is important because there are more kids than homes and the kids need a place to go.
-Taking care of babies is better than doing what I want to do because it is more fun, and I am serving someone else.
- Babies in foster care are just like every other baby. They are cute, fun to be with, they make you laugh, and they teach you something new about yourself.

Ellie
-Taking care of babies is hard work.
- I learned that I have to stop doing what I want to do so I can take care of the baby by feeding him, changing him, or playing with him.
- I love Baby E because he makes me laugh, and I like feeding him because he copies all of the silly faces and sounds I make while I feed him.

Lord, make us a family that honors You by living out what You command, no matter the difficulty, the pain, the sorrow, or the sacrifice. Teach us to forget Self so we can serve one another willingly - and - with joy.
It is not natural, it is not easy, but it is right. We are learning how to serve, but we have far to travel to gain mastery. Day by day, Lord, teach us to surrender Self so we can be completely free to love and sacrifice for those You have placed in our care. Without You, we can do nothing. With You - anything is possible.

Let love be genuine.
Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:9-13

10.28.2019

Mindful Monday. "After Surrender - Then What?"


Penned by Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. John 17:4

True surrender is not simply surrender of our external life but surrender of our will— and once that is done, surrender is complete. The greatest crisis we ever face is the surrender of our will. Yet God never forces a person’s will into surrender, and He never begs. He patiently waits until that person willingly yields to Him. And once that battle has been fought, it never needs to be fought again.

Surrender for Deliverance. “Come to Me…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
It is only after we have begun to experience what salvation really means that we surrender our will to Jesus for rest. Whatever is causing us a sense of uncertainty is actually a call to our will— “Come to Me.”
And it is a voluntary coming.

Surrender for Devotion. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself…” (Matthew 16:24).
The surrender here is of my self to Jesus, with His rest at the heart of my being. He says, “If you want to be My disciple, you must give up your right to yourself to Me.” And once this is done, the remainder of your life will exhibit nothing but the evidence of this surrender, and you never need to be concerned again with what the future may hold for you. Whatever your circumstances may be, Jesus is totally sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:19).

Surrender for Death. “…another will gird you…” (John 21:18, John 21:19).
Have you learned what it means to be girded for death? Beware of some surrender that you make to God in an ecstatic moment in your life, because you are apt to take it back again. True surrender is a matter of being “united together [with Jesus] in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:5) until nothing ever appeals to you that did not appeal to Him.

And after you surrender— then what?
Your entire life should be characterized by an eagerness to maintain unbroken fellowship and oneness with God.

10.27.2019

They strengthen my faith!

I L-O-V-E reading the biographies of godly men and women.
The Lord graciously afforded me the time to consume these 21 titles over the past two years,
and I am grateful He did so!
Some of the volumes were already on my "to read" list while others were added after learning about their influence on the men and women I already admired.
Well-lived godly lives have a powerful effect on those around them and, those who follow after. I have never met one of the subjects of these biographies, yet I feel as if we are intimate friends.
Praise God for putting it on the hearts of the saints of yore to write down His dealings in their lives!
We have access to vast treasures in the pages of these books!

These - are my NEW books!
I tried to lessen the number of volumes due to the commitment of foster care, but I was only able to shorten the list by six.
<insert face-slap emoji>
Too many excellent biographies - not enough hours in the day!
I look forward to discovering what the Lord plans to teach me through these extraordinary men and women, for I never walk away from a story unchanged or without a fresh, proper perspective on life because of their faithful pursuit of and service to God.
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.’ Matthew 25:21

The first read of the new collection was The Life and Diary of DAVID BRAINERD. He was one of America's 1st circuit-riding preachers, and missionary to the Native Americans in the early 1700s.
As always, the Lord used the life of this faithful man to challenge, convict, and comfort my own.
Thank You, Lord!

At 25 years of age he wrote:
"It is good, I find, to persevere in attempts to pray, if I cannot pray with perseverance, I.e. continue long in my address to the Divine Being. I have generally found, that the more I do in secret prayer, the more I have delighted to do, and have enjoyed more of a spirit of prayer: and frequently have found the contrary, when with journeying or otherwise I have been much deprived of retirement. A seasonable, steady performance of SECRET DUTIES IN THEIR PROPER HOURS, and a CAREFUL IMPROVEMENT OF ALL TIME, filling up every hour with some profitable labor, either of heart, head, or hands, are excellent means of spiritual peace and boldness before God. Christ, indeed, is our peace, and by Him we have boldness of access to God; but a good conscience void of offense, is excellent preparation for an approach into the divine presence. 
Filling up our time with and for God, is the way to rise up and lie down in peace."

 "Oh, how sweet it is to be spent and worn out for God!"

"Oh that I may be enabled to plead the cause of God faithfully, to my dying moment! Oh how sweet it would be to spend myself wholly for God, and in His cause, and to be freed from selfish motives in my labors."

The following scene took place three days before Brainerd died (a slow, painful death from tuberculosis), as told by Jonathan Edwards in whose house David spent his last days:
"In the evening, as one came into the room with a Bible in her hand, he expressed himself thus; 'Oh that dear book! That lovely book! I shall soon see it opened! The mysteries that are in it, and the mysteries of God's providence, will be all unfolded!'"

10.25.2019

Waiting for another one!

Praise God in His sanctuary;
praise Him in His mighty heavens!
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150

We have officially declared that we have another "open bed" for a foster baby in the Eastman home!

The need is great, overwhelming actually, and we know we can do more - and want to. ❤
We met as a family to discuss, pray about, and re-commit to the sacrifice required to serve babies and minister to their moms, and the result was a unanimous and enthusiastic, "Yes! Let's DO THIS!"

We have some limitations due to sleeping space, support, and scheduling, but we know a baby girl will be joining us, for she will share a room with Ellie. And our nine-year-old daughter is over the moon with the thought of having her "own baby" to care for! Our friends bequeathed us their antique crib, we found sheets to match Ellie's room, and the baby gear is stacked in the closet, so whether we get a call today or next month - we are ready!

But more than ready, we are grateful.
We as a family have been forever changed because of the babies the Lord has brought into our home. The Lord has personally stretched me beyond what I knew was even possible by giving me birth moms to listen to, care for, invest in, and love; and that stretching has resulted in a renewed passion for His Word, increased prayer, and greater empathy for the hurting and broken.

I think Micah summed it up best when at the end of our family meeting he exclaimed, "I have loved every baby that has been in our home, and it makes me wonder why in the world we didn't start doing foster care a long time ago!"
Dennis and I wholeheartedly agree with him, but we do know the "why."
To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

God's timing does not often match ours, but it is always - BEST!

10.21.2019

Mindful Monday. "God's Silence - Then What?"


From the pen of Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest.

When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. John 11:6

Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning?
God’s silences are actually His answers.
Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life?
Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer?
God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response?
When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation.
If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes.
The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty.
Time is nothing to God.
For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (Matthew 7:9). He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious— it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.”
His silence is the very proof that He has.
As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence.
If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.

10.20.2019

A gift that will keep giving!

My favorite birthday gift this year was this ring of cards, filled with words of kindness, affection, and
love from my children. Each child had four cards to fill and they wrote something specific and different on each one.
It is the size of a business card, small, yet packs a powerful punch of encouragement when opened because words are powerful!
This precious gift now rests on the kitchen windowsill above the sink (where I wash dishes/bottles 27 times a day) and makes me smile every.single.time I see it.
❤ Thoughtfulness is priceless! ❤

Receiving words of encouragement on paper, written by the very hand of the one showing such kindness is a precious gift.
In twenty years, or on a day when we feel forgotten and alone, we can pull out the notes, letters, cards graciously given by others and find refreshment, encouragement, and hope once again - from the very same words written years before.
What a valuable reminder of the power of GOOD WORDS!
They can breathe new life into a heart and mind over and over again.
Especially when they echo the words of the greatest encourager who gives US life!

May we seek to encourage one another in tangible ways this week - and - pray specifically for the "who" so we can be that cool, refreshing cup of water for the weary soul who needs our kindness most.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply, and how good is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23

10.16.2019

We have one job.

Today, Dennis and I had the privilege of attending a Donor Appreciation Luncheon with our foster
agency.
Olive Crest graciously invited foster families to attend the event, and we said, "Yes!" without knowing what to expect.
But the Lord knew exactly why He had us there.
The keynote speaker aimed an arrow right at my heart, confirming the stirrings that have been dwelling there, and had me crying happy, confused, wondering, frustrated, hopeful tears on the drive home.

After praying, listening to one of my favorite worship songs on a loop, and calling a sweet and encouraging fellow foster/adopt friend, the Lord quieted my heart and encouraged me with His ever-precious still, small voice.
As if He whispered, "Don't look at the obstacles, daughter. All you need to do is step forward in obedience. I will take care of the rest."

So we will keep moving forward in our foster care journey, trying our very best not to look around at the sometimes overwhelming circumstances - but keep our eyes UP - trusting the Lord with every detail and every decision.
He is the One giving orders.
Our job?
OBEY.
We overestimate what is required to make a difference.
We underestimate what we have to offer. 

- Jason Weber 
National Director of Foster Care Initiatives for the Christian Alliance of Orphans

Scripture journaling! A most appreciated challenge!

One of the best challenges I ever received was to keep a Scripture Journal.
The purpose is simple.
Every time I read the Bible, I write down the verse or passage that hits me between the eyes. Encouragement, conviction, comfort, a call to action - it matters not. I write it in the journal.
Sometimes copying the Scriptures is enough, and sometimes doing so spurs thoughts, questions, or prayer - all of which are recorded on the pages.
One day I may scratch out one or two verses, while another day finds me copying entire chapters because they are treasure chests full of Scriptural gems.

I have kept dozens of journals over the decades, but not one of them has been as satisfying to fill as this one!

If you already possess and fill the pages of a Scripture Journal, you can attest to the blessing of doing so. If you have never pursued this discipline, I highly encourage you to give it a try! God's Word never returns void, so whether you write out one verse a day or one verse a week, you will reap the benefits of spending time in the pages of Scripture. ❤

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11

10.14.2019

Mindful Monday. "Getting Into God's Stride."

Enoch walked with God… GENESIS 5:24

The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. A person’s worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight (see John 1:35-37 and John 3:30). It is painful work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him— it means getting your second wind spiritually. In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself. The individual person is merged into a personal oneness with God, and God’s stride and His power alone are exhibited.

It is difficult to get into stride with God, because as soon as we start walking with Him we find that His pace has surpassed us before we have even taken three steps. He has different ways of doing things, and we have to be trained and disciplined in His ways. It was said of Jesus— “He will not fail nor be discouraged…” (Isaiah 42:4) because He never worked from His own individual standpoint, but always worked from the standpoint of His Father. And we must learn to do the same. Spiritual truth is learned through the atmosphere that surrounds us, not through intellectual reasoning. It is God’s Spirit that changes the atmosphere of our way of looking at things, and then things begin to be possible which before were impossible. Getting into God’s stride means nothing less than oneness with Him. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it. Don’t give up because the pain is intense right now— get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.

- Written by Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest

10.06.2019

A Wonderful Weekend of Birthday Family FUN!


The weekend ended with a Family Night.
Dinner, a leisurely walk, tossing a football at the local university ❤ TOGETHER! ❤
I LOVE my family!


The weekend began with a Friday morning pedicure date with Ellie
She was SO excited and could not stop looking at her sparkly blue toenails!


The afternoon found me watching Pride & Prejudice and then enjoying a delightful nap. 


In the evening, Isaiah and I went to In-N-Out for dinner and then to his flag football game.
Always a good time to watch my guys play ball!


The next day - a lunch date with Josiah!
Followed by an afternoon all.to.myself. (a rare occasion indeed)


Baby snuggles - a precious, precious gift!






The man who made it all possible!
Thank you, Dennis, for making me feel loved, appreciated, and wanted on my birthday.
❤ I love you! ❤

10.05.2019

48 years of life. 48 reasons to praise God!


For these ,,,  I am thankful!

48. Dennis - and 26 years of marriage. ❤
47. Micah
46. Luke
45. Caleb
44. Matthew
43. Josiah
42. Isaiah
41. Ellie
40. Family
39. Friendships that are steadfast and unshifting through the storms and trials of life
38. Authenticity
37. Faithfulness
36. Brothers and sisters who encourage and uplift those around them
35. Laughter
34. Thoughtfulness
33. Selflessness
32. People willing to sacrifice their comforts to serve the hurting and the broken
31. Compassion that spurs ACTION
30. Titus 2 men and women who willingly and graciously invest in younger brethren
29. Freedom to worship
28. The beauty of worshipping with the body of Christ
27. Creativity
26. The godly wisdom of those who have walked intimately with the Lord for decades
25. Vulnerability
24. Truth-tellers
23. The humility of others that literally makes them disappear while all glory is directed to God
22. Godly men who study, pray over and preach the Word of God with passion and without apology
21. Brothers and sisters who care more about holiness than happiness
20. Words of encouragement
19. Creation ... rain, wind, colorful flowers, ocean waves, giraffes
18. Health
17. Discernment exercised by the godly and the wise
16. People who ponder before answering/speaking (Proverbs 15:28)
15. Pleasant memories
14. Trials that produce maturity, strength, growth and greater dependency on the Lord
13. Repentance that leads to restoration
12. Visible fruit in the life of believers who are passionately pursuing Christ
11. People who do the right thing when it is not the "easy" thing
10. Being trusted to walk through the sins and struggles with a brother/sister in Christ
9. Gentleness
8. Kindness
7. Scripture - the beautiful, inspired, perfect word of God
6. Prayer - continual access to God every minute of every day
5. Forgiveness
4. Second-chances
3. Mercy
2. Grace
1. LIFE!

Let me live that I may praise You, and may Your laws sustain me. Psalm 119:175

10.02.2019

REJOICING - because I REMEMBERED!

When you have children with learning needs, you are always looking at hurdles that must be jumped.
Some appear conquerable and others loom overhead like Mount Everest.
But whether the hurdle is three feet high or 29,000 feet high, your children must jump over each one because every hurdle is completely immovable.
You know you either have to teach every child how to jump over them - or - throw them over your shoulders and jump for them until they are able to do so on their own.
There are sweet moments of victory and agonizing moments of defeat; for there are pieces you can manipulate, manage, and control, and pieces that slip through your fingers like sand. And sometimes? It feels like you and your children are drowning in the very sand that has slipped through your grasp.

BUT GOD.

He provides precious moments of insight. Moments when He peels back the curtain of the past, allowing you to peek inside and remember where they were and how far they have come.
He provides PERSPECTIVE.
As if He lovingly whispers, "Daughter, you look around and see row after row of hurdles, wondering how your children are ever going to jump over them all. But you forget to look behind you and remember how many have already been knocked down.
Four years ago they could not read. Three years ago you thought you would never be free from the chains of your children's educational weaknesses and needs. Two years ago they were unable to move forward in basic math. Last year they could not work independently in any school subject.
Do you remember, Michelle? Do you remember feeling absolutely overwhelmed? Do you remember feeling inadequate as both a teacher and a mother? Wondering if you would ever be able to meet their needs and push them on to success? Questioning every decision you made on their behalf? Questioning why I entrusted them to you when you felt completely inept to serve them?
Do you remember, child?
Because you must.
If you do not remember where they were - where you were - you cannot rejoice over how far all of you have come.
Your children can read!
Your children can work independently!
Your children know their addition/subtraction/multiplication tables!
They have learned to exhibit better self-control, think before speaking, and read the responses of those around them when they blurt out or speak inappropriately.
They have grown!
Matured. Learned.
And, daughter, so have you.
You cannot live in the past, but you must remember it. For when you remember all that I have done in and through your children, for My glory and their good, you will REJOICE.
And the hurdles will no longer appear as formidable foes, but obtainable opportunities."

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that You have done; I ponder the work of Your hands.
Psalm 143:5

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that He has done ...
Psalm 105:1-5

9.30.2019

Mindful Mondays.

The best way to begin a beautiful Monday?
With Scripture and thoughtful/challenging words from someone who walks with God!

(Diary excerpt from James Smith's autobiography, "Marvelous Mercy!")

April 16, 1854.
During the past week I have had one of the most severe asthmatic attacks I ever experienced. How painful to labor and gasp for breath, as I then did. How different the things of time appear under such circumstances! How soon one feels willing to spread the wings and fly away. May I daily live under the impression I then felt.

How I long . . .
for closer communion with God,
to feel more of the sweet power of piety in my own heart,
to walk with God in confidence,
to lean upon Him,
to cast every care upon Him,
to leave everything with Him,
to aim always, and in everything to glorify Him,
to walk through the world as if one was walking straight home to God - to dwell with and to enjoy Him forever!

Yet I feel that I need to be daily kept - to have the Lord's eye constantly upon me, and His everlasting arms always beneath me!

"Hold me up and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117

9.28.2019

Remembering and Rejoicing - because of her thoughtfulness.

Almost four years ago, the Lord grabbed our family by the scruffs of our necks and
forced us to take a long, hard look at the way we spend our time.
He also exposed us to the intense need for orphan care by continually (almost weekly) bringing us in contact with families who fostered and/or adopted and needed encouragement and support as they walked through the transition and difficulties that accompany orphan care.
His calling was clear: STEP UP and SERVE, Eastmans!

Two months later He sat me across from an exhausted and overwhelmed friend who needed encouragement, understanding, and support to endure the trials of caring for the three foster children she and her husband had adopted. Her tears were sincere. Her tears were profound.
The Spirit's conviction was clear: Serve THIS family!

We obeyed.
And we were blessed.
We spent three years taking care of their children, and in that time, our friendship grew deep roots.
So it was no surprise when their family became our first, our loudest, and our most enthusiastic cheerleaders when we said, "Yes!" to becoming a foster family.
They prayed for us, encouraged us, asked hard questions, supported us financially, and listened.
They had walked miles in the foster/adoption world before we ever took our first step, and then joyfully took our hands and said, "You CAN do this! And we will be right beside you every step of the way."
And they have been faithful to that promise.


Because my friend has a gigantic heart and is constantly thinking of others and looking for ways to bring them joy, I was not surprised when she went out of her way to choose, package, and mail me an early birthday present because she will be galloping through the streets of her childhood on my actual birthday.
(Her passion for orphan care permeates everything she does - including gift selections.
I LOVE the necklace she chose for me!)

Learn to do right; seek justice. 
Defend the oppressed. 
Take up the cause of the fatherless; 
plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:17


Thank you, Julie, for years of faithful friendship.
You encourage me, you make me laugh, you challenge my thinking, and you model what true sacrifice really looks like. And best of all, you are 100% authentically YOU. Never do you pretend to be perfect, never do you pretend to have all of the answers, never do you try to be anything you are not.
You are just JULIE.
And JULIE is exactly who the world wants and needs! ❤
I love you, friend!

9.27.2019

A wonderful (and embarrassing) discovery!


Today I am rejoicing because I gained another year of LIFE!

I was bummed that I am turning 49 this year (because it sounds SO much closer to 50 πŸ˜†)
until I realized - I will TURN 48 in October!

Once again (for this is not the first time), I gave up an entire year of life because I always project the age of my next birthday the day after I celebrate the current one! 🀦🏻‍♀️πŸ™„

Once I did the math and realized I will ONLY be 48 I yelped,
“YES! I got a year back! I GOT A YEAR BACK!” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

I’m sure this will happen again. And again. And again.
When I think I am turning 100, I will discover I am only 89!πŸ•ΊπŸ½πŸ’ƒπŸ»

The best part of this discovery?
I gained another year of life with THIS man! πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ’™πŸ™ŒπŸΌ

9.23.2019

Learning to Serve SelfLESSly.

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

This is the theme verse for our school year.
Love. Affection. Honor.
Lovely sentiments, yes?
Unfortunately, when selecting this verse, I failed to take into account the incredibly competitive nature of the Eastman family line. A competitive mindset reads the word "outdo" and interprets it as "WIN! WIN! WIN!" Sometimes coupled with the lovely image of an Olympic athlete crossing the finish line in glory, and sometimes attached to the image of an MMA cage fight.
In the Eastman house, of late, it was the latter.

Instead of looking for ways to honor each other best, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie decided that to "outdo one another in honor" meant competing over who could care for Baby E best.
They fought over who would sit by him in the van. They fought over who would help give him a bath. Who would warm his bottle. Who would get him after his nap. Who would change his diaper. (Yes! I am serious!) And on and on and ON in went. <insert long eye roll and slap to the forehead>
At first, I thought it was funny that they were fighting about who could out-serve the baby. For about a day. And then I realized - they were being selfish in their serving. Selfish. In serving. The irony was great.

So, this morning, we spent our devotion time focusing on a different verse.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 
I explained that while it is absolutely wonderful and honoring to the Lord that each of them wants to take care of Baby E, hip-checking your sibling into the wall so you can get to the crib faster is not the best way to go about it.
The desire to serve Baby E?  Fantastic!
The desire to be first - the desire to get your own way? Not so much.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 

After a long discussion, prayer, questions, examples, and some laughter - they got it.
If we are going to serve foster babies and their families, we must also serve one another.
It will not always be easy. It will not always be fun. But it will always be right. ❤

In order to add ACTION to our new thinking, we sat at the table with a notebook and pen and wrote down the ways they had been selfish in serving Baby E. (They surprised me by adding two more items when I thought the list was complete!)
After listing all of the ways they can serve him each day, we created a "Serving Schedule" - together - each choosing (and agreeing on) the days of the week they wanted for every task.
And we had FUN!
(As Mary Poppins declared, "You find the fun and SNAP! The job's a game! 🎢And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake, a lark, a spree, it's very plain to see! 🎢)
When all was agreed upon, I made a final copy, we placed the sheet on the kitchen cabinet, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie read through the entire document (I love this photo!), and they walked away smiling and excited about the new "Serving Selflessly Schedule."
Friends, today was a ♥GREAT♥ day!

I am present during each of these tasks, of course, but if I am not careful, I could put Baby E to bed at night without ever having actually touched him during the day since there are three Eastmans constantly competing for his attention and affection.
I am not complaining, I assure you!
Witnessing the joy my children have for these foster babies and watching them mature and learn valuable life skills through the process makes my heart overflow with gratefulness that the Lord has called us to this ministry.
It makes me laugh that 'serving selfishly' is one of our foster care "problems."
But it also blesses me because it reminds me of something a wise, godly woman once said.
"God does not just call parents to foster care. He calls the FAMILY."

As unpleasant as it is to listen to selfish bickering as our kids throw elbows to feed oatmeal to the baby, I love that they WANT TO. Their zeal to serve may outweigh their compassion at times, but I will take a passion for serving over apathy any day!

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

9.16.2019

An excellent Monday Morning meditation!

Prayer is . . .
the mightiest weapon that God has placed in our hands,
the best weapon to use in every difficulty,
the surest remedy in every trouble,
the key that unlocks the treasury of promises,
the hand that draws forth grace and help in time of need,
the silver trumpet that God commands us to sound in all our necessity,
the cry He has promised always to listen to, just as a loving mother listens attentively to the cry of her child.

Be sure that no time is so well spent, as that which a man spends on his knees.

What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others?
I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits in private prayer.
I believe that those who are not eminently holy, pray little - and those who are eminently holy, pray much.

What is the cause of most backslidings?
I believe, as a general rule, one of the chief causes is neglect of private prayer.
People are backsliders on their knees, long before they backslide openly in the eyes of the world.

Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor.
Jesus can understand you!

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2

- J. C. Ryle

9.14.2019

Easy? No. 100% absolutely worth it? YES!

A few days ago someone pronounced, "You make foster care look so easy!"
While I am confident the person meant it as a compliment, I almost choked on my drink.
Easy? As in little-or-no-effort-required easy? 
I doubt that particular adjective has ever been linked to the foster care world, and though I am not a prophet, I think it is safe to predict that they will not be linked together in the future.

The dictionary definition of "easy" reads:

easy adjective
\ ΛˆΔ“-zΔ“ \
1
a: causing or involving little difficulty or discomfort
b: requiring or indicating little effort, thought, or reflection
2
a: not severe: lenient
b: not difficult to endure or undergo
3
a: marked by peace and comfort
b: not hurried or strenuous
4
a: free from pain, annoyance, or anxiety
b: marked by social ease
5
a: giving ease, comfort, or relaxation
b: not burdensome or straitened

I have not met every foster parent, foster sibling, or extended family member in the foster care world, but the ones I have met? They would laugh out loud if someone read this definition, then looked up and asked, "Isn't that a fanTAStic description of what it is like to be a foster family?!"

Is there beauty in foster care?
Overwhelming moments of sweetness and joy?
Prayers answered?
Hurdles knocked down?
Miracles performed?
Fantastic opportunities to show the love of Christ to others?
Countless opportunities to educate and promote the need for and the joy of foster care?
Spiritual growth and sanctification?
Learning to trust God in the unknown?
Increased compassion after learning the "what" of the "why?"
Multiple opportunities to sacrifice comfort and self for the good of another?
The joy of investing in the life of a child?
The joy of investing in the life of a broken and hurting birth parent?
Milestones reached?
Goals accomplished?
Emotions magnified?
Sacrificial and unconditional love understood and expressed?
Yes!
Yes!
A thousand times YES!

But that is only one side of foster care. There is another.


Isolation.
Rejection.
Disappointment.
Sorrow.
Pain.
Fear. Of the unknown and the known.
Unanswered questions.
Answers no one wants.
Anger.
Distrust.
Resentment.
Suffering.
Unmet expectations.
Loss.

Any or all of these can be experienced by the child, the birth parents, and/or the foster family. Just as the joys of foster care can touch everyone involved, the isolation and sorrow can affect everyone too.

BUT GOD.

He has not called one of His children to a life of ease.
He has not called one of His children to a life of comfort.
He has not called one of His children to live without suffering or sorrow.
In fact, not only does He call us TO suffer, He commands us to rejoice IN our suffering!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes. Psalm 119:71


Foster care may have hundreds of hurdles to clear. It may be exhausting. It may stretch us farther than we ever thought we could possibly be stretched. It may push us to constant prayer and daily surrender because of the unknowns and potential dangers. It may require that we walk alone because there are few who share our passion or want to join us. It may require a level of sacrifice we didn't know existed.
All of these things may be true.
BUT GOD. 
He demands that it be done.
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 31:7-8

Like anything God calls us to do, we must obey. Immediately. "Delayed obedience is disobedience." (as a wise person once said) And our obedience must be tethered to purpose, passion, and JOY. For the Lord does not abandon those He calls. He equips. He encourages. He establishes our steps.
He has no choice but to do so! He is the Good Shepherd. And with the Lord as our Shepherd, we are never, ever in want.

Foster care may not be "easy," but it is wonderful. And absolutely, positively, without a single doubt, worth every second of effort, joy, sorrow, surrender, and sacrifice. And in all of it, both the delightful and the difficult, we can CHOOSE to have joy because it is not about us. It is about HIM!

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

9.04.2019

The Eastman Academy begins its 15th year!



Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
Our 2019-2020 Student Body!

Our theme for the year: Honor through serving
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10





Josiah - 6th grade


Isaiah - 5th grade


Ellie - 4th grade


Baby E is our honorary student because it is never too early to start learning!


Caleb - 10th grade
The Lord provided a wonderful alternative school option for Caleb this year, so while he is no longer a student at The Eastman Academy, he is a student and we want to celebrate him!


Micah - our first alumnus - beginning his second year of junior college.


 Luke - our second alumnus - beginning his first year of college.


Caleb and the graduates humored me by joining us for our back-to-school photo shoot.
And it made my mother's heart quite happy!



I LOVE this photo!