4.25.2019

The WHY of Foster Care - is Him!

For the past six weeks, we have been swimming in foster care training. Reading articles, watching videos, filling out questionaries, taking quizzes, completing worksheets, and spending dozens of hours in classes. When we first received the list of required training hours it was a touch overwhelming, but it has proved to be the best part of the process thus far. Every article, every video clip, every class is a catalyst for deep and thought-provoking conversation. Sometimes, the information is so intense Dennis and I just look at each other and say nothing, knowing there are no words to express the thoughts and emotions tumbling about in each of us. More often than not, what we are studying triggers memories and hurts and struggles from our own past and within our own hearts, and we are forced to take a scrutinizing look at ourselves to work through emotions and memories long forgotten, or ignored.

They say that the foster world is filled with grief. The grief of the parents, the children, the siblings, extended family, friends, social workers, therapists, police, doctors, judges, lawyers ... everyone who shares a piece of the trauma involved when a child is removed from her home. And they are right. But I would add one more group to the list - the foster parents. I can only speak for our agency, but to make sure an applicant is mentally, emotionally, and physically stable to engage in the traumatic world of foster care, they do not just "dust off" the visible artifacts - they excavate! Relationships, family, childhood, teen years, marriage, parenting, personal struggles, coping mechanisms, sin ... all of it is pulled up and laid bare. And in that process, something interesting (and often unexpected) is discovered. Grief.

Grief for what was. Grief for what should have been. Grief for mistakes. Grief for ignorance. Grief for injustice. Grief for poor choices. Grief for broken relationships. Grief for wounds that healed but still left scars. Grief for improper thinking. Grief for hurtful memories. Whether discovered in huge, obvious piles or tucked into tiny spaces ... grief exists, and it must be confronted.

At the beginning of every live training session, the question is asked, "Why are you here?"
Dennis and I know our "why." The Lord has called us to foster care with an incredibly loud and clear voice. There is not a hint of ambiguity, confusion, or doubt. But friends, I will confess that there are moments when my mind and my body are gripped with fear when I think about the realities of what lies ahead. Having a baby in our home is the easy part. It is the 20-30 hours each week of birth parent visits, social worker meetings, doctor appointments, therapy sessions, court dates, and phone calls that set my heart racing. Then, the enemy creeps into my thoughts to taunt me. "Really, Michelle? You think you can manage all of that AND take care of your family AND homeschool? Please. You are so ill-equipped for this." (That is the kindest of the taunts.) I know his goal is to discourage me, to take my eyes off of Christ and focus them on myself. I KNOW this. And yet I listen long enough to feel the panic rise and the icy fingers of fear begin to grip my heart.
BUT GOD.

Every time - every time - the enemy is whispering in my ear, the Lord rescues me by reminding me WHY we are walking into this fierce spiritual battle called foster care. An article, a video clip of a child being abused, a heart-wrenching journal entry of a foster child, the truth that they did not choose foster care (it was chosen for them), their confusion and fear, the brokenness of the birth parents, the stories of healing and redemption. The Lord uses each one of these to drown out the voice of the enemy so I can hear HIS voice say, "Michelle. I know you are not equipped, but you don't need to be. I know what I am doing, and we will walk through this together, one day and one step at a time. And daughter, the answer to your question is simple. You are doing this - for Me."

Thank You, Lord, for being a God who never lets go of His children. Thank You for being a God of order, and not chaos. Thank you that fear never comes from You, and for having the power to destroy fear when the enemy wields it as a weapon. Thank You for being a God who turns despair into dancing and lamentations into laughter. There is nothing You cannot handle and nothing You cannot redeem.
Please, Lord, redeem the foster world. There is nothing it needs more - than You. 


♥ This piece of art was lovingly created by a precious sister in the Lord,
and hangs on our nursery wall to remind us every day that the answer to the "why"
of foster care is simple. It's HIM. ♥

4.24.2019

Happy Birthday, Isaiah!


Ten years!
For ten years you have been an absolute blessing to our family, Isaiah Daniel!

You are funny.
Thoughtful.
Inquisitive.
A thinker.
You have an active imagination.
You are creative.
A risk taker.
Quick to try new things.
Independent.
Introverted.
A faithful friend.

Since the day you were born you have made all of us smile, and our home and family would not be as entertaining or light-hearted without you!

We have no idea what the Lord has planned for your life, but we pray you will always SEEK His plans and follow them quickly, obediently, and joyfully. You do not belong to us, Isaiah. You belong to the Lord. A God who made you with His own hands and in His own image. Whatever you do must be for His glory, not your own. People are drawn to you because of your easygoing nature, but it will be the light of Christ shining through you that will keep them by your side.

Do not waste your youth, Isaiah. Ask God to give you a passion for prayer and a passion for reading His Word so you can spend your carefree days as a boy building up a storehouse of Scripture and strengthening your mind and your resolve through daily discourse with Him. He knows you best, son. He knows what you need. He knows where you are weak and He knows where your strengths lie.
SEEK HIM. Daily. Hourly if need be.
Before you look to me or Dad, your siblings or your friends - SEEK CHRIST.
He is your rock, your source of wisdom, and your strength.
He will never fail you, for He will never leave you or forsake you, and He is a God who cannot lie.
Like the prophet you were named after, be a boy who is BOLD. Never ashamed of the Gospel, and always willing to speak the truth with compassion and grace, even if it means standing alone.

We love you, Isaiah Daniel, and we are beyond blessed to call you our son. 

Happy 10th birthday!

4.21.2019

Wedding FUN!


We spent Easter weekend in Arizona because ... 
"our Caleb" became a HUSBAND!
Not only was Dennis honored to stand next to our dear friend as a groomsman, but our entire family was invited to share in the joy as Caleb & Camille committed to FOREVER before God.
We enjoyed a wonderful time together as a family and made great memories and new friends!







Thank you for so graciously including us in your wedding day, Caleb & Camille!
It is clear that you are loved and supported by friends and family who want the best for you,
and you are not rejoicing in your marriage alone! We all share your JOY!
Dennis was thrilled to be trusted as a groomsman, witnessing the promises you made to one another, and ready and willing to walk with you through the highs and lows of life in the years to come.
Caleb, you know you are FAMILY, and now Camille, you too are an Eastman!
We pray the Lord will continue to strengthen, mature, and refine you as you get to know one another in a new and unique way - as man and wife - and we trust the Lord will teach you to love Him more than you love one another so you are able to love each other - better.
Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Clinkingbeard!
♥ We will be praying for you and will always be here if you need us. ♥

4.18.2019

Start fighting when the sun rises and until the stars shine!


I love this spin on Psalm 1.

But on days like today, I feel like there should be a P.S. that reads,

"Satan hates families who read the Word, love God, and seek to obey Him.
If you are one of those families, grab your weapons! The enemy is prowling the perimeter of your house looking for ways to break in and devour every single one of you.
Be alert! Stand your ground! Strategize. Assume nothing. This enemy never quits, he never dies, and he spends every waking hour seeking to destroy God's people.
He is intelligent. He studies his prey to find their greatest weakness and then attacks with precision.
He is patient, willing to wait for the optimal moment to strike to produce the greatest damage.
Do not underestimate him and never, ever let down your guard.
Your Bible should be secured in one hand while the other hand is raised in prayer so that your two greatest weapons are always poised at the ready to defend or attack as the moment demands.
It is true, Christian.
The Lord blesses the man, the woman, the child, and the family who delights in His Word.
But the enemy? He loathes that same man, woman, child, and family. He wants them distracted, self-focused, busy, and apathetic. If he can keep their eyes on themselves instead of on the Savior, he wins.
He rejoices as they sink deeper and deeper into the sin they once abhorred and avoided - but now justify.
Christian! Delight in the Word of God!
Morning and evening, day after day, year after year, hiding His Word in your heart so that you will not only keep yourself from sinning against Him, but you will know Him better and love Him more.
But in your delight be diligent.
Keep your weapons sharp, your shield in front of you, and your battle gear ever at the ready. 
The battle may belong to the Lord, but brothers and sisters, He has commanded us to join Him in the fight!"

May we be encouraged by this wonderful image of our brothers of old.

And I (Nehemiah) looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail.
And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall.
Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.
So we labored at the work,
and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out.
Nehemiah 4:14-18, 21

An unexpected and BEAUTIFUL gift!


These two friends.
Thoughtful.
Faithful.
Generous.
Gifted.
They used each of those qualities to bless me in a unique way.💗💗

Because of the need to have our foster nursery in our master bedroom, and the fact that I have absolutely no skill for design, I asked my talented friends if they would help me figure it out. 
Instead - they did an entire bedroom/nursery MAKEOVER!

When they brought me in for the reveal, I cried.
I cried for their kindness toward me.
I cried because they created something beautiful.
I cried for the babies that would be surrounded by that beauty.
Most of all, I cried because I felt LOVED.♥️
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works ... encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25

Now, we just need to fill the nursery with the SUPPLIES for the babies!
The countdown is on, friends, and our lives are about to change in unique, dramatic, and beautiful ways! We don’t know what we don’t know, but we know the God who DOES!


BEFORE


AFTER!


Some of my favorite pieces.


My absolute FAVORITE piece!
Our custom print with our Foster Care THEME!
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31:8, 9

Thank you, Christina and Christina, for loving me in such a unique and tangible way.
You created something that I could never have created myself, and every time I walk into our room I feel encouraged - supported - and cherished because everywhere I look there is evidence of your kindness, your generosity, and your love. Thank you, precious sisters. I love you. ❤ Michelle

4.02.2019

Am I walking the right way?

As I laced up my running shoes to prepare for a long walk with a friend, I began to wonder.
How many times have I put on my shoes with the intent to walk, only to take them off again because I didn't "feel" like walking?
How many times have I seen my shoes sitting on the floor of the closet, knowing I should put them on and move my body, but refused to do so because I was "too tired," "not in the mood," or just didn't care?
How many times have I sat sedentary when I should have been active?
And how many times have I lamented my big buns, poor health, and fatigue - all of which were a direct result of not lacing up my shoes?
<deep sigh>
Too many times, friends. Too many times.

And like most things in life, there is a spiritual application laced within the lesson.

As Christians, we are called to "walk in a manner worthy of God."
Time for another deep sigh.
Not only do many of the footprints of my spiritual walk lack the holiness of God, they aren't even in a straight line. They are up, down, sideways, and on the ceiling! Perfect evidence that I have relied on my own way and my own will far too often, failing to follow the purposeful path laid out by a Savior who knows exactly where I need to place each step.

How sweet life would be, how much easier the climb, how effortless the journey if we intentionally and obediently placed our feet in the footprints left for us by the Savior! 
And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." Luke 9:23
Our steps, no matter how well-intentioned, are tainted with selfishness and sin. We want to follow Christ, but our feet turn to the left and the right when something alluring catches our eye. We step off of the path "for just a second" only to stumble into weeds and ditches and detours that take us further than we wanted to go and keep us longer than we wanted to stay.

The sure, straight, steady way of the Master may seem dull in comparison to the glittering temptations that line the road, but it is the easiest, fastest, and shortest route to our destination. 
HIS steps.
HIS way.
HIS course.
HIS stride.
If we follow Him, our feet will always take us to the only place we need to be.
Safe and secure at the Master's side.


Whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did. 1 John 2:6

As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord - so walk in Him. Colossians 2:6


For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

I Thessalonians 2:11, 12

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

I Thessalonians 4:1