3.18.2019

An anniversary of surrender!

It crossed my mind the other day that the Lord called us to surrender our family to orphan care sometime in the spring, so I popped on the blog and VOILA! There it was! The entry of our surrender story dated March 19, 2016.
How encouraged I was to read this again!
We had no idea where God would lead us, or what it would look like when we got there, but we knew we had to follow. And now, after three years of being welcomed into the lives of other foster and adoptive families, we get to become one!
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Psalm 146:1-2
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Lord is making us uncomfortable - and it is GOOD! (March 19, 2016)

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

Dennis returned late that same night and while he was shaving I sat on the bed and asked him, "What did YOU do today?" He listed a few items and I asked, "Do you want to know what OTHER people were doing?" I read our missions letter.
He dropped his head back and groaned, "Do you want us to move to a leper colony, Michelle?" (He is used to these conversations if you didn't already guess.)
"No. But I am asking ... how are we using OUR free time to enlarge the Kingdom? How are we serving 'the least of these?' How many people know Jesus - because they know the Eastmans?"
Silence. From both of us.
Lord?

The following evening we called a family meeting with the older boys, shared the same story, and asked the same question.
We spent an hour discussing our family life.
We are a family of eight able-bodied people who could do so many things using the skills and passions the Lord has placed in each of us, yet every one of us squanders, at least, two hours per day. At best, time is spent on self rather than others. At worst, the time is completely unredeemable because the activities are worthless.
We asked the boys to think about their skills and interests because children and teens do not need to wait until they are adults to change the world for Jesus Christ. They can serve Him now. Right where they are. We challenged them to think about what can they do to serve others and affect eternity - today - at the age of 16, 14, and 12. "Do not let anyone look down on you because of your youth."

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

It sounds great.
Are we LIVING it?!?

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

We agreed to pray as individuals and come back together to continue the conversation.

Fast forward a week.
I sat in a chair with my toes in the sand while listening to a dear sister share her struggles and sorrows, her victories and joys.
As I listened, my discomfort grew.
Have I served her? Have I been a faithful friend?
Lord, You have been stirring me up to do MORE. Our family is healthy and strong and able to serve, but no opportunity has presented itself.
Now, here I am, looking into the eyes of a hurting, desperate friend who happens to have three rescued orphans living in her home, and right now this family needs a life ring the size of Kansas.
Is this who You want us to serve? Is this who we have been waiting for?

I graciously interrupted my friend and asked if I could tell her our story. When I finished, I looked her in the eyes and said, "You are our lepers!" And she started to cry.

Dennis and I have surrendered adoption to the Lord.
Dennis was adopted, so we naturally have a tender heart for this wonderful calling.
The Lord has not delivered an orphan to the Eastman home, however, and He may never do so.
And, we do not have to adopt an orphan to be obedient to Scripture.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
No orphan bears our name, but we are surrounded by people who have shared their name ... and we can serve THEM.

Sometimes we (humans) think we have to do EVERYthing or save EVERYone, and it feels overwhelming. Or, we don't know where to start - so we end up doing nothing.
It's true. We cannot save everyone, but each of us can do something, and we must seek the Lord's wisdom to know what that 'something' looks like.
As believers, we don't have a choice. "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me."

Ignorance is bliss.
But once we are aware - we are ACCOUNTABLE.
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1

The Lord was not yet finished stirring up compassion for orphans in the Eastman home.
He put it on my heart for our family to watch this movie together.
To be honest, I have been avoiding it for quite a while, because I knew it was going to break me. I wasn't wrong.
We watched. In silence.
I soaked in every scene, every word, and shed many tears.
When the movie ended, no one spoke. A somber group inhabited our family room.
I needed a moment alone, so I stepped into our bedroom, grabbed a pillow, sat down on the bed, and began to weep. The weeping turned into sobbing. I could not wrap my mind around what I had just seen.
Dennis entered the room and said quietly, "I knew this is how I would find my wife."
He held me until the sobbing stopped, at which time I looked at him and asked, "There are just too many lepers, aren't there?"
He nodded solemnly and said, "Yes, there are."
"So what are we going to do? We can't be people who watch something like that, see the need, say, "Oh, how awful," cry, and then do nothing. What are we supposed to DO?"

We don't know the answer to that question.
We don't know why the Lord is stirring our hearts, making us uncomfortable, and convicting us about how we spend our time as a family, but He IS.
And you know what? We don't have to know the 'why' - because we know the One who does know! All we have to do - is obey.
The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

3.14.2019

Remembering our son - Matthew.

Sweet Matthew,

It has been thirteen years since I held you in my arms. Thirteen years since I looked at your little face and your tiny hands and feet. Thirteen years since I sat on a hospital bed, broken, overwhelmed with sorrow, and wondering how I would ever recover from the loss of my baby.
BUT GOD.
After everyone left, after the nurse took you away, when the room was dark and silent, the Lord met me in my darkest hour.
And that night, just hours after saying goodbye to you, the Lord began to gently bind my wounds and revive my crushed spirit.
Tears flowed freely day and night for weeks and my heart felt like it was being smashed inside my chest, but even in the deepest moments of grief, He held me tightly in His grip. He sustained me in my sorrow.
And He protected my mind. For, Matthew, I could not do so myself. I wondered ... did you feel pain when you died? Were you scared? Did you know who I was? Would you know my voice? Recognize my face when we reunite in glory?
I wondered if I could have prevented your death. Was it something I did? Something I ate? Did I put my selfish needs above your needs, preventing you from being healthy and whole?
The questions and fears did not linger long, but they made sure to knock on the door of my mind, begging to be allowed in. And each time, I had to force myself to speak the truth I knew was real even though I didn't understand it, or like it.
Your journal is filled with my questions, my thoughts, my confusion, and my praise. I knew you were fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and I knew He loved you with an everlasting love. I knew He had chosen the day of your death just as He had chosen the day of your birth. I knew He was powerful enough to restore life to you. But, He didn't. And though I didn't know "why," I had to ask, "What, Lord? What do you want me to learn from this?"
Matthew, your death changed everything. It changed how your dad and I view God's sovereignty. It changed how we view our family. It changed how I pray. How I trust God. How I read Scripture. Everything I knew before was now being seen, pondered and lived through the lens of suffering. And while it was the most intense trial the Lord has ever asked me to walk through, it is also one of the greatest gifts He has ever given to me.
The Lord used your death to strengthen me, Matthew.
I am not the same woman I was the day I held your precious, lifeless body in my arms.
He used your death to push me to my knees in prayer.
Bury my face in the pages of Scripture.
Fall in love with worship music so I could praise Him through tears.
Learn to say, "I need."
Learn to swallow pride and accept help.
He used your death to teach me how to recognize and comfort the hurting, even when it was uncomfortable.
He used your death to start a ministry that reaches out to women who are as broken and sorrow-filled as I was the night I wept inconsolably on the closet floor.
Your life, your 133 days, were purposeful and beautiful and changed the trajectory of my life, forever.
You are our son, Matthew Isaac Eastman.
From the moment we knew you existed until this very day, we have acknowledged your life.
Every year, on the anniversary of your delivery, your father brings me seven bouquets of flowers, representing the lives of each Eastman child. Though we have never felt your arms around our necks, listened to you laugh, or heard you whisper, "I love you," in the darkness of night, you are an Eastman. And you are ours. Our precious son.
It took time, years actually, but I will never forget the day I stood on the sandy shore of the Pacific Ocean on Mother's Day, with your sister Ellie bundled in my arms, and finally cried out, "Thank You, Lord, for taking my son," while tears streamed down my face. It was the most difficult act of obedience I have ever surrendered to ... praising the God who takes away.
And yet, as the sound of the crashing waves faded in the background while I walked away from the shore, I felt a peace and contentment I had never experienced. I thought I had surrendered in the dark night of the hospital room, but I had merely taken the first step into surrender.
And God carried me through every step thereafter. Faithfully. Patiently. And with grace.
Oh, Matthew, as deeply as you are loved (and missed) by me and your father, I am thankful you have only known the perfect love of the One who created you, the One who numbered your days, and the One who chose to give you - to us.
You are real. You are ours. And you will never be forgotten.
I love you. ❤ Mom

3.11.2019

Convicted by my own lesson! And GRATEFUL!

Long ago I was challenged to insert my name into Scripture passages to make them personal and poignant. I cannot remember the who or when of the challenge, but I remember the passage, and my goodness did the person know what he was talking about!
The passage was Romans 6:1, 2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 
A convicting verse, yes?
Watch that conviction increase when I write it like this:
What shall Michelle say then? Is Michelle to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall Michelle who died to sin still live in it? 
Eek!

I think of that challenge often and have employed it in discipleship and counseling many times. It can make Scripture pop where conviction of sin is needed, but it can also provide tremendous comfort for the hurting heart that needs to be drenched with encouragement and truth.
This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:50
This is Stephanie's comfort in her affliction, that Your promises give her life.

It was this very exercise that recently poured fresh conviction over me and reminded me of the value of making Scripture personal. It has been said that the Bible is a love letter from God. If this is true, then it is not only personal, it is intimate. A Father talking to His child, quietly, privately, as if He is sitting across from her, looking directly into her eyes. What a precious image!

Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were in an intense struggle to be kind to one another. Siblings bicker and fight, of course, and siblings who are home together all.day.long (because their family room is their classroom) can fall into the "familiarity breeds contempt" pit. Often. Generally, the falls are short and recovery happens quickly, but every once in a while they loiter at the bottom, refusing to climb out. It is frustrating, annoying, and ex-hau-sting. Instead of responding to them in the Spirit, with patience and gentleness, I responded in the flesh with impatience and gruffness. I was sick of listening to their incessant whining and arguing and just wanted it to STOP. Lectures ensued, separation from one another was prescribed, privileges were lost. To no avail, however, for nothing changed.

And then, as I stood in the kitchen, staring at their six eyes, mentally preparing my 627th lecture of the morning, I told myself to pray. It was an eloquent, thoughtful prayer that went something like this, "Lord! HELP ME or I am going to LOSE my MIND!" Friends, the next moment it was as though the heavens opened and a blast of bright light broke through the roof to shine down on me with a voice that screamed, "STOP TALKING AND PUT THEM IN FRONT OF GOD'S WORD!"
And all fell silent.
What was I thinking? I'm not the Holy Spirit! I have no ability to convict anyone of anything. The only thing I can do is point my children to the Cross. To Christ. To Scripture. To the Truth.
And then - trust Him to work out the details.

I took a deep breath, pulled out three pieces of notebook paper, grabbed three pens, and asked Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie to get their Bibles and sit at the counter. No more of Michelle. Not her voice, not her discipline, not her opinions. Just truth. Written on the pages of Scripture.
Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
I Corinthians 13:4-6

They copied the passage.
I asked them to write it out again - inserting their names in place of the word "love."
And then, each of them read the passage out loud.
The conviction was palpable.
After each of them read their personal version of I Corinthians 13, we engaged in a discussion about whether the statements were true. Is Ellie patient and kind? Does Josiah not insist on his own way? Does Isaiah rejoice in the truth?
They were humbled by many responses of "no."
It was a sweet, redemptive, and beautiful exchange.

But the lesson was not over.
As I collected their papers to put into in their files, it felt like the Lord whispered, "And what about you, daughter? Where is your name?"
Deep, deep sigh.
I pulled out another sheet of 8-1/2x11, wide-ruled, three-hole-punched notebook paper and started writing.
Michelle is patient and kind;
Michelle does not envy or boast;
Michelle is not arrogant or rude.
Michelle does not insist on her own way;
Michelle is not irritable or resentful;
Michelle does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
Michelle rejoices with the truth.
I Corinthians 13:4-6

"This certainly wasn't true today, was it, Lord?
Forgive me. And thank You for never leaving me as I am, but always drawing me to Yourself and planting in me a desire to look less like me and much, much more like You. Sometimes it feels as though my image will be forever reflected in the mirror, but I will not give up trying to squish it out, for You promise that You will never leave me and that Your mercies are new every morning because You are a faithful God. And I believe You! Help me, Lord, I pray, for I cannot do this on my own!"

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

3.10.2019

CAMP EASTMAN IS BACK - with a PURPOSE!


■ TWO DATES ONLY! ■

Saturday, March 30th
Saturday, April 6th
3-6 pm

Purpose: Foster Care Fundraiser!
We need to raise $1,000 to cover the cost of expenses for Foster Care certification.
(fingerprinting, CPR/First Aid classes, cabinet locks, fire extinguisher, house prep etc.)

12 Spaces Available
for each camp date
9 toddlers/children (age 2-10) 
3 babies (age infant to one year)

Cost: Donations Only
(Whatever amount you think three hours of peace is worth to you as a couple!)

Three hours of non-stop movement and FUN!
We hope your kids can join us!

And thank you, in advance, friends, and family, for supporting us as we work hard to prepare our home (and ourselves) for the babies the Lord plans to send to us. ♥

3.06.2019

Today was a GREAT day!


We were approved to begin official training to become a certified Resource Family!
(you can read about our entire journey up to this point HERE)

We are thrilled beyond description and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to give a voice to the children who need someone to speak on their behalf.
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

Step 6
Now, we move on to Step 7 - certification!
Classes, training, physicals, fingerprinting, CPR/First Aid, house prep, baby registry, etc.
If all goes as planned, we will be a certified Resource Family and able to take in a baby - by June!

We could never have done this on our own.
Encouragement, prayer, odd jobs to earn money, unexpected gifts, and enthusiastic support have kept us going on the discouraging days and remind us that we are not doing this alone - but as a community.
And we are thankful!

We have no idea what lies ahead for the Eastman family in the world of foster care, but the Lord DOES!
So we will wait on Him for our marching orders, always ready with boots on and weapons ready!





♥ Pray for us, if you will. ♥
We are entering a unique mission field, and the enemy is going to do whatever he can to try and keep us off the field.
BUT GOD ...

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
May He remember all your sacrifice and accept your burnt offerings.
May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to His anointed.
He answers him from His heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!
Psalm 20

3.05.2019

Happy Birthday, Caleb!


15 years.

Life, health, learning, protection, maturity, and growth.
The Lord has been good to you, Caleb Jeremiah!

We are thankful for you.
Since you were a toddler, you have been a source of amusement, entertainment, and joy to every member of our family. Even your numerous facial expressions delighted us!
And nothing has changed.
You may have outgrown the silliness of childhood, but enough remains to keep you young at heart and able to connect with kids of all ages - and they love you!
It is fun to watch you surrounded by kids, being used as a human mountain, chasing them and making them laugh until their sides hurt, and picking up and smiling at the ones no one else even notices.
We have no idea what the Lord has ordained for your future, Caleb, but we are pretty certain He will use you to affect the lives of children in a way that matters.

You are a young man of simple needs and simple wants.
Contentment comes easily to you, and this is a character quality to maintain and strengthen.
Life is filled with challenges and disappointments, as you know, and a man who can roll with the punches, adapt to new circumstances and laugh in the midst of frustrations is a man people will appreciate and respect - and - a man who will provide encouragement and comfort for those who need it most.

I love you, Caleb Jeremiah, and I praise God for choosing us - for each other.
I will always be here to listen to, love, support, and serve you. ❤

Happy 15th birthday, my son!
Love, Mom