5.23.2019

The enemy made us stumble, but the Lord made us DANCE!

After being allowed the privilege of walking beside dozens of families who adopted children or became foster parents, we knew we would not walk a bumpless road when we chose to follow in their footsteps. We have witnessed the loss of jobs, sickness, injuries, disheartening diagnoses for children, estranged family relationships, legal troubles, depression, marriage struggles, and spiritual battles. All of these before a foster child or orphan entered their homes!

And yet, each of these families kept moving forward. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time, for they knew every obstacle thrown in their path was an attempt of the enemy to keep them from moving forward. He does not thwart the path of those who follow him. He seeks to destroy those who follow Christ. So, of course, anyone following the Master to an orphanage to visit orphans in their distress becomes a target.

It was no surprise to us, therefore, when scarcely two hours after we turned in our foster care application, we took our first hit. I will never forget that moment. Standing in our backyard on a beautiful, sunny day, letting the news sink in while we soaked up the warmth of the sun. One word kept spinning through my mind. AFTER. We found out AFTER we turned in our application. Had we heard the news one day earlier, even that very morning, we would have (at best) hesitated or (at worst) not turned it in at all.
BUT GOD.
He knew our resolve would have weakened with the news.
He knew we would have questioned if we should move forward.
He knew we would have to trust Him, not ourselves.
He knew we would have to surrender what we thought was logical and necessary.
He knew the answer before we knew there was a question.
He knew.
We did not.
And so, as we stood on the cement slab in our backyard staring at each other that lovely afternoon, we had to make a choice. Will we follow the Lord down this new turn in the road without a word of worry or complaint, trusting Him to work out the details of the unknown?
It may have seemed like a choice, but there was really only one answer. "Yes, Lord. We will follow!"

Since that day, He has shown us that He is in control. He is aware. He sees us.
He has faithfully ministered to us through the reading of His Word, the preaching of His Word, and quotes written by godly men and women.
This Scripture passage comforted me more than any other:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually

and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Isaiah 58:6-11

He has also ministered to us in tangible ways, reminding us that He IS Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide) by moving the hearts of others to join Him in unique and fun ways. And our brothers and sisters had no idea we needed them!
A friend threw us a "virtual" baby shower to provide the items needed for the babies who will come into our home. Another friend provided four days of paid physical labor which covered unexpected expenses. Two dear sisters prepared our bedroom to be a nursery. Notes of encouragement were placed in our hands. A family member filled a Costco cart with household supplies. Baby clothes were delivered. Gifts arrived in the mail. The government sent us an unexpected tax return. Dear friends added us to their "monthly missionary budget" because they see orphan care as a mission field. And most recently, the thoughtful family of my college roommate surprised us with a generous check that made me cry and caused Dennis to choke up, for it arrived during one of the hardest weeks we have yet endured in this journey.

George Mueller has long been one of my favorite pillars of the faith, and every time the Lord provided for our family in tangible ways such as those listed above, I was reminded of Mueller's seemingly unequaled faith in God's provision. "Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends."

Praise God that He sees all when we see only what is in front of us.
Praise God that He knows all when we know only a piece of the whole.
Praise God that He knows what was, what is, and what is to come.

The day we turned in our foster care application was a great day, though not what we expected. I literally danced my way down the stairs after handing the application to the smiling woman at the front desk, not knowing that Dennis and I were about to trip and fall over the gigantic obstacle the enemy threw into our path hoping we would run away in discouragement and fear.
Little did he know that our God keeps a stockpile of sparkly shoes ready to slip onto the feet of His children after He faithfully and joyfully turns their mourning - into DANCING!

... for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:8

5.21.2019

Wrapping up our Middle Ages study with a show!


A field trip to Medieval Times was a fitting and fun way to end our study of the middle ages.





When Ellie took the throne, she told the boys, "You are my Knights!"
Isaiah did not mind this declaration, but Josiah CLEARLY had problems with it!





A kind worker took pity on the homeschool group (four Eastmans) and granted us access to the collection of real swords made by hand in Spain. They were mesmerizingly gorgeous! (My favorite held a sapphire.) Had we $800 worth of change in our pockets, we could have taken one home with us. Maybe next time! ⚔️🛡🗡⚔️🛡🗡





Another benefit of being the lone homeschool group in a sea of school kids?
Being seated in the front row - by ourselves! (Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were thrilled!)
Giant drumsticks - corn on the cob - a potato - garlic bread - and a cookie for lunch. YUM!





Before the tournament began, they provided a half-hour presentation on chivalry in the 21st century.
They addressed kindness, compassion, accepting people who are different than us, defending the weak, and bullying. Well done, Medieval Times! WELL DONE!






We cheered for our Green Knight throughout the tournament, and he chose Ellie to receive one of the flowers he was awarded from the queen. She was embarrassed - but glad!

5.18.2019

A day of CELEBRATION!


We’re DONE!
We’re DONE!
We’re D•O•N•E!
As of 4 p.m. this afternoon, May 18, 2019,
we officially completed our Foster Care and Specialized Medical training!
🙌🏼 🙌🏼 🙌🏼 🙌🏼 🙌🏼 🙌🏼 🙌🏼 🙌🏼
Now - we wait (somewhat) patiently for the Lord to BRING THE BABIES!

5.17.2019

An unexpected yet fruitful day.

My view today.
A day that was not expected, yet much needed.

~ extra hours of sleep
~ four lovely hours of silence
~ the opportunity to read an excellent biography which, I suspect, is preparing my heart for the battles that lurk within the foster care world

On the second day of a head cold, complete with aches and fever, the beauty of solitude was the perfect prescription for my body, mind, and soul.

How I love learning from the faithful saints of old!

A few quotes penned by John G. Patton:

“I returned to my lodging with a lighter heart than I had for some time enjoyed feeling that nothing so clears the vision, and lifts up the life, as a decision to move forward in what you know to be entirely the will of the Lord.”

“Life in such circumstances led me to cling very near to the Lord Jesus; I knew not, for one brief hour, when or how attack might be made; and yet, with my trembling hand clasped in the Hand once nailed on Calvary, and now swaying the sceptre of the Universe, calmness and peace and resignation abode in my soul.”

“Life is God's great gift, to be preserved for His uses, not thrown away.”

5.16.2019

Our G3 - and me!


It never occurred to me until today,
but in the three years I have been TAKING photos during outings with our G3,
I have never been IN the photos!
So - here it is.
Henry
Grace
Toby
Josiah
Isaiah
Ellie
and
Me!

5.13.2019

A letter to my children on Mother's Day.


Dear Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, Ellie ~ 

The longer I am a mother, the more I realize that Mother's Day is not about me.
❤ It is about YOU.❤
Without children, I am a woman, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a niece, a friend ... but not a mother.
You gave me the title "mom," and because you needed me I dove into the role and never looked back.
Motherhood is a gift. Not a right.
You belong to the One who created you in the secret places of the earth.
You are not mine, sweet children. You are HIS.
And for this, I am grateful. He loves you, knows you, sees you, and wants you in ways I cannot fathom, and though I love you with everything I can give, He loves you more. And best.
I do not deserve you, Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie; yet the Lord chose to bless me with seven children, six here on earth, and our sweet Matthew in heaven. And He has used each of you to grow, mature, convict, challenge, soften, encourage, support, and teach me in ways that are unique to motherhood. Through the seemingly endless monotony of changing diapers, doing laundry, making meals, giving baths, brushing hair, making beds, and rocking you to sleep in the wee hours of the morning - the Lord was changing me. He was showing me my selfishness. Revealing my pride.
Teaching me that in order to love you well, I had to love myself less.
And I am embarrassed to say, I did not always choose you.
BUT GOD.
He can restore the years the locusts have eaten.
He is a God of forgiveness. A God who heals. A God who restores.
And for those beautiful truths, I am grateful.
It would be far too easy to relive the past, tallying every mistake I have made as a mother, recounting every thoughtless word, every foolish action, every sinful thought. But who wins in that scenario? Only one.
The enemy. And I cannot, I will not give him that power! He may stand before the throne of God every single day accusing me, but every single day Jesus steps in front of me and declares,
"Back off! I know she is not perfect, but she is MINE!"
Praise Him that His love for us is more numerous than the sands on the seashore!
Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and, Ellie,
My prayer is that the Lord will increase my desire to love you, serve you, encourage you, and support you more with each passing year. Your need for me will lessen and change as you grow into adults, but I want to remain one of your strongest, most steadfast, immovable supports so you always know that I not only love you as you are, but I accept you and REJOICE in you - as you are.
May God grant us many many more years to enjoy each other.
I love you. Every one of you.
Mom ♥






5.09.2019

A beautiful gift that opened my eyes and affected my prayers.

The Lord has put it on the hearts of several individuals to join our family as we prepare to bring babies into our home. Baby clothes, a diaper bag, board books, monetary gifts, bottles, handmade items ... each one has been received with enthusiasm and gratitude, for we know we cannot do this alone!
Every time someone provides for these sweet babies we are reminded that the Lord knows our needs before we even ask, and He will be faithful to meet those needs.

Monday afternoon a large box was delivered to our door, with the return address bearing the name of some dear friends. Josiah, Isaiah, Ellie and I smiled and laughed as we pulled out each item, imagining babies wearing the tiny shoes and outfits and snuggling in the blankets. It was evident that our friends had fun shopping and we were thrilled with their choices!

The gifts made us smile.
The letter made me cry.

Dear Michelle, I pray you are all well!
As I had mentioned to you, the Lord just kept emphasizing Moses in the basket. That's why a basket is included in this package.
As we prayed over the little ones you will soon welcome in your home, our daughter got the idea to include her little book about Moses.
It is not a book we would normally gift as it is used and has some writing on the front page and some pages are a bit damaged at the bottom.
But I couldn't help to think, "Isn't this how the Lord accepts us?"
We are all a bit damaged. Some stains here and there, but it is what He deposits in us, the gift of salvation, that makes us righteous vessels to do His work!
When I pictured Moses in the basket I could see (because I know how the story ends) that the Lord had set apart that little boy and kept him safe right in the midst of his enemies, by His almighty power.
I don't know who these babies will be or how many will be sent to your family throughout the course of this journey, but however many, I will be praying that the Lord will bathe these littles in the prayers of faithful prayer warriors so that one day, they may deliver the message of salvation to their people, family or friends.
I'm also sending you a little prayer list that our daughter put together. I asked her, "If you were a baby, what would you want others to pray over you?"
I would love for others to commit to praying for you and your family, especially for these little babies! So that's what I kept imagining when I thought of Moses' basket. A basket full of prayers for the babies that will soon be housed under your roof and protection and nurture.
The Lord bless you and keep you in perfect peace.

Prayers for babies (written by a 9-year-old little girl)
1. That they grow up to know the Lord
2. That they will always have enough food in their homes
3. That the parents would get enough sleep at night
4. That the babies stay healthy and grow healthy

Friends, I have never once thought of Moses as a foster child. He was not an orphan, for his parents lived. Though he was willfully surrendered by his parents, not removed from their care, he would have been murdered had he stayed. His parents refused to let their baby die at the hands of Pharoah, yet still exercised tremendous faith by placing him in a river, hoping someone would see the basket and draw him out of the water. Through God's providence, the princess who found him returned him (unknowingly) to his mother, but for most of his life, he was cared for not by his own parents, but by another.

My friend was right. The Lord had set Moses apart and kept His protective hand over him, for when he was grown, he returned to his parents, his siblings, his people, and fulfilled the purpose God had for him.
Moses led God's people out of bondage and into freedom!

The "Moses theme" of my friend's gift is perfectly fitting for the foster care world.
It is also tragically beautiful.
Thousands and thousands of baskets, each with a foster baby, foster child, or foster teen tucked inside, float down the rivers of every state and every country - every day.
But there are not enough hands reaching from among the reeds to draw them out of the water.

Lord, You have not called every person to bring home a floating basket with a child inside of it. You have not called every person to adopt or foster a child. But You have called every one of us to visit orphans in their distress. So we ask You to show us HOW to visit. Is one called to weave the baskets while another is called to draw attention to the thousands floating in the water? Is one called to clothe the babies while another provides food and medical expenses for the teens? Is one called to bring the children home while another commits to financing the items needed for each child? Is one called to minister to the babies while another is called to minister to the one holding the babies? Lord! These are YOUR children! They were created by Your hand and they bear Your image. Protect them. Provide for them. Prepare the way for them as You did for Moses. Each basket may not contain a child who is going to change the world, but each basket contains a child who will make a difference in the lives of those who choose to love him. Please, Lord. Move the hearts of Your people to pray. As my sweet sister wrote, may there be a basket full of prayers floating beside every basket holding a baby so they will never know a day that isn't surrounded by Your name, Your love, Your affection, and Your grace. They are Yours, Lord. As Moses' parents placed their precious son in a river centuries ago, trusting You with his life, we surrender every foster baby, every foster child, and every foster teen to You now, knowing that You truly are ...
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families… Psalm 68:5, 6
Amen.

5.04.2019

Slow to sacrifice - but now - fully surrendered.

Every morning I wake up to this.
An empty crib.
An empty crib ready to receive a newborn baby boy or a nine-month-old baby girl.
An empty crib ready to be filled on May 19th (when our training will be complete), or in six months when a baby needs a home.
An empty crib reminding me that I have sacrificed my only personal space in our home.
And the sacrifice was not easy.

I am an introvert living in a house with seven humans and a dog.
Three of those humans are children.
Three are teenage boys.
Only one of the six is an introvert.
My husband is an extrovert extraordinaire.
And the dog? He likes attention too.

For the first week after the crib was set up, I sat at the edge of our bed, staring at it.
"I will never be alone in this room again."
"I will never be able to sit on the bed and read a book in solitude."
"No more movie nights for me and Dennis."
"Our boys will not be able to come in for our late night discussions."
"This was the last place I could be alone. And now, it's gone."
"Lord? Why am I struggling with this so much?"

He was gracious to let me wrestle with the reality of the life we are willingly walking into.
He didn't solve it for me. He didn't even interrupt my thoughts. He just let me be me, witnessing my attempt to reconcile what I think I need and what I know I want with the unknowns of what will be.
It wasn't until a few weeks later, as I sat staring at the crib again, thinking the same thoughts again, that He finally intervened with a good shake of the shoulders and a loud, "Mi-CHELLE!" to get my attention. "Why are you struggling so much, daughter?"
SACRIFICE.
noun
an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy

- time
- energy
- finances
- convenience
- sleep
- social events
- personal space
- peace
- privacy
- freedom

I willingly sacrifice all of these things for my own children.
I would sacrifice my life if the need called for it.
So I had to ask myself, "Am I willing to do the same for someone else's child?"
I didn't know it until that moment while staring at the empty crib, as the word sacrifice rolled around in my head, but the answer was simple. "Yes! I am willing!"

Every sacrifice made for these babies will be worth it.
Because ...
being a foster parent may be hard, but it's not as hard as being a foster child.

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 appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39

5.01.2019

A beautiful book. A beautiful prayer.

This book.
Lovingly gifted to us after we lost our son Matthew.
It sat tucked inside his memory box for years until it was rediscovered and
placed on the shelf to be read and enjoyed at anytime.
It is a precious book. 
Written by saints hundreds of years ago,
yet offering the same joy, the same peace, and the same hope - today.

My morning was kicked off with this Puritan prayer, sent by my loving sister-in-law,
who knew not the state of my heart.
But God knew, for the prayer was fitting - encouraging - needed - and appreciated.

I share it here for other brothers or sisters who need the same encouragement.


O God the author of all good,
I come to You for the grace another day will require for its duties and events.
I step out into a wicked world;
I carry about with me an evil heart.
I know that without You I can do nothing,
that everything with which I shall be concerned,
however harmless in itself,
may prove an occasion of sin or folly,
unless I am kept by Your power.
Hold me up and I shall be safe. 

Preserve my understanding from subtilty of error,
my affections from love of idols,
my character from stain of vice,
my profession from every form of evil.
May I engage in nothing in which I cannot implore Your blessing,
and in which I cannot invite Your inspection.
Prosper me in all lawful undertakings,
or prepare me for disappointments.
Give me neither poverty nor riches.
Feed me with food convenient for me,
lest I be full and deny You and say, Who is the Lord?
or be poor, and steal, and take Your name in vain.

May every creature be made good to me by prayer and Your will.
Teach me how to use the world and not abuse it,
to improve my talents,
to redeem my time,
to walk in wisdom toward those without,
and in kindness to those within,
to do good to all men,
and especially to my fellow Christians.
And to You be the glory.

~ Puritan Prayer