Happy Birthday, Baby L!

You were fearfully and wonderfully made by an amazing God who CHOSE to create you, sweet baby girl!
He designed the color of your hair, the shape of your toes, the dimples in your cheeks,
the length of your eyelashes, and the beautiful golden hue of your skin.
He made you uniquely YOU, and you are precious and valuable because you are a reflection of HIM!

It is hard to believe we have only known you for sixteen days, for it feels like you have always been a part of our family. Your smile has captured every Eastman heart and your energy, laugh, and over-the-top personality brings us much joy. Caleb cannot look at you without smiling and declaring, "Oh my goodness, Princess, you are so cute!" before he scoops you up in his arms and makes you laugh until you are out of breath. Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie literally fight over who gets to hold you, feed you, play with you during your bath, and sit next to you in the Thunder Bus. They cannot get enough of you, Miss L!
You still aren't sure about Micah and Luke, but they cannot look at you without smiling because they are taken in by your cuteness. And Mr. Eastman told you just yesterday how much he is going to miss you.

As for me, sweet baby, I am awed and overwhelmed by the love I feel for you after such a short time.
As I prayed for you yesterday, emotion overwhelming me at the thought of saying goodbye,
the Lord reminded me of our son Matthew. I never saw him smile, I never heard him laugh,
and I never felt his little arms around my neck. But he changed my life, forever.
Baby L, I have seen you smile. I have heard you laugh. I have felt your little arms around my neck
a hundred times. And you too, have changed me, forever.
We prayed the Lord would choose the right foster baby for our family. We prayed He would give me opportunities to minister to the mother of the baby. And then - He sent YOU!
You showed me that I can love someone else's child with as much passion and commitment as I love my own. You showed me that all of the training, the paperwork, the appointments, and every demand of the foster care system are absolutely worth it because those pieces are only a means to an end.
The end? Welcoming babies into our family, loving them, protecting them, providing for them, and caring for them until they get to go home. There is nothing that matters more than serving babies and their families who need healing, forgiveness, and grace because we all need healing, forgiveness, and grace.

You may not read this until you are fully grown, but no matter when you do I want you to remember the truth that you are valuable. You are precious. You MATTER. Not because of what you do or how you perform or how others perceive you. You are precious and valuable because you were created by a loving, faithful, gracious God who decided that this world would be better with you in it!
Seek Him, sweet one. Seek Him every day and never stop until You find Him. And when You do, respond to the offer of forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life by exclaiming, "Yes, Lord! I surrender all, and I will follow You all the days of my life!" For Baby L, you were not made for this world. You were created for eternity! My greatest prayer is that you will spend that eternity with the One who designed you, with joy, in the secret places of the earth before you were born.

❤ Happy 1st Birthday, little one! ❤
How thankful we are that the Lord chose to give you LIFE!
May you live it the way He intended. ABUNDANTLY!


Not ruined - REFINED!

One of the greatest criticisms (and the most asked question) we received after announcing we were pursuing foster care certification was that becoming a foster family would "ruin our children."
They would not get enough attention.
Their needs would go unmet.
The demands of the system would burden them.
We would be too exhausted to serve them after serving a baby all day.
And so on.

I cannot speak for any other family, for each has their own story to tell. But I can speak for my own, and after witnessing my children sacrifice 72 hours to serve two foster babies, including one with intense medical needs, I would argue that foster care will not ruin my children - it will refine them!

While we have plenty of arms to hold babies, those arms have to work as well as play.
Pushing a stroller around the neighborhood, building with blocks, splashing in the bath, tickling feet, playing peek-a-boo, reading books, and making a baby laugh are highlights of the day.
But diapers must be changed, food prepared, clothes washed, 24/7 supervision provided, medicine administered, doctor visits attended, and crying resolved.
All aspects of child care, the fun and the frustrating, are life skills that must be mastered at some point.
So, why not now?

In an effort to give our children a voice, however, and not assume that I know how they feel or what they are thinking about our new world of foster care - I asked them!
Today's writing assignment:
Please get two pieces of paper.
On the first piece write, "The best part of foster care."
On the second piece write, "The hardest part of foster care."
List ten items on each sheet.

This is what Josiah (11), Isaiah (10), and Ellie (8) had to say.

❤ The BEST part of Foster Care ❤

Taking walks with the baby
Making fun memories.
Playing with her.
Feeding her.
Helping her when she needs help.
She is cute.
She laughs a lot.
She likes to play.
Giving her a bath.
My mom gets to spend time with her parents.
Watching her play.
Taking her out of her crib when she wakes up.
Seeing her smile.
Holding her.
Looking at her cuteness.
Helping my mom take care of her.
Entertaining her.

⬥ The Hardest Part of Foster Care ⬥

Changing diapers.
Watching her so she doesn't get lost.
The crying.
The breathing treatments. (respite)
Making sure she doesn't get hurt.
When they leave.
Learning a new language to speak to her.
Having to follow her everywhere she goes.
The fussing.
The bad moods.
Putting her shoes on.
When she cries Mom is the only one who can calm her down.
Carrying her everywhere when she doesn't want to walk.
When she is sick and needs medicine.

In short - PARENTING!
Our kids are learning what it is like to be parents! And what is the #1 factor of parenting?

There are a hundred and one things that can "ruin" my children,
but learning how to sacrifice for the good of others is most definitely not on the list.

When the Lord called Dennis and me to foster care He also called our children.
He is not just writing our story as a couple.
He is also writing one for Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
And we pray they will be blessed by this experience, rejoice in it, and most importantly,
that it will be used to shape not only their futures - but their character. ❤

For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.’
Matthew 25:35-40


A weekend of unexpected BEAUTY!

Or rather - a play weekend!

Our agency called on Thursday and asked if we would provide respite care for a precious baby girl for three nights. After making sure we could handle her medical needs, we said Yes!

I may resemble a raccoon, and I may have worn my pants inside-out all day, but it is totally worth it because our family has been blessed by the presence of these sweet baby girls.

We have enough arms to hold and care for them and they have enough smiles and hugs
and laughter and cuddles to bring joy to every Eastman.💗

Today I am praising God for the BEAUTY of foster care because there IS true beauty to be discovered and enjoyed. And we have seen that beauty in the faces of these two baby girls.💗💗


A new beginning!

After three years of preparations and prayer, we are praising God for our first foster baby! 💛

This little one joined our family last night, and we are enjoying every moment with her!

Fourteen days or fourteen months, however long we are blessed with her presence in our home, we will be grateful that we have been entrusted to care for such a sweet soul. 💛

We cannot wait to meet her parents and thank them for letting us care for their daughter, and we pray we will have the opportunity to encourage and support them in unique and meaningful ways.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed with AND for us during this journey.
We never could have made it here - holding a precious baby while she waits to go home - without being surrounded with encouragement, support, and love from family and friends. 💛💛💛

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:14-16


Why do I speak?!?

As if stumbling across the Elisabeth Elliot quote wasn't convicting enough, this one followed right behind to add greater strength to the conviction! Clearly, the Lord is reemphasizing a lesson He taught me several years ago: She doesn't need to speak just because she has a mouth!


During a delightful evening spent together as families, a sweet friend and I snuck some private minutes together to talk about things unique to us as women while our husbands were deep in discussion in another room and our children moved all over the house. How refreshing it was to exchange thoughts, concerns, prayer needs, and the way the Lord is currently holding His holy mirror to our faces to reveal our sin and help us lose our own images - and replace them with His.

I cannot remember how Amy Carmichael was welcomed into our conversation, but as soon as my friend heard her name she asked, "Have you read her book if?" I had never heard of it, so she explained the premise of the book adding, "EVERY time I read it I am so convicted I feel like I cannot speak for days." With an endorsement such as that, my only thought was to add it to my never-ending-and-always-growing book wishlist! I barely had time to look it up, however, when it arrived at my door.

It is a tiny book, just four inches by six inches, with barely 50 pages. But it is a POWERFUL book. After reading just a few of the "if, then" statements, I understood why my friend felt she could not speak after absorbing words of such deep conviction.

Though it would be easy to quote the entire book, I will let Amy's own words introduce it, and then write out some of the "ifs" that struck me like a blow. If you are familiar with Amy, you will be neither surprised nor offended by her blunt and intense manner. If she is new to you, take heart. Her intense, focused, passionate nature is exactly who God made her to be - so she could do the work He called her to do.

How if came to be written. "One evening a fellow worker brought me a problem about a younger one who was missing the way of Love. This led to a wakeful night, for the word at such times is always, "Lord, is it I? Have I failed her anywhere? What do I know of Calvary love?" And then sentence by sentence the "Ifs" came, almost as if spoken aloud in the inward ear."

✽ if I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

 if I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self-pity and self-sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve around myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if I do not give a friend "the benefit of the doubt," but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if the praise of men elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

✽ if I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

How the book closes ...
"Let us end on a very simple note: Let us listen to simple words; our Lord speaks simply: "Trust Me, my child," He says. "Trust Me with a humbler heart and a fuller abandon to My will than ever thou didst before. Trust Me to pour my love through thee, as minute succeeds minute. And if thou shouldst be conscious of anything hindering the flow, do not hurt My love by going away from Me in discouragement, for nothing can hurt love so much as that. Draw all the closer to Me; come, flee unto Me to hide thee, even from thyself. Tell Me about the trouble. Trust Me to turn My hand upon thee and thoroughly to remove the boulder that has choked thy riverbed, and take away all the sand that has silted up the channel. I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. I will perfect that which concerneth thee. Fear thou not, O child of My love; fear not.""

Thank You, Lord, for the life and ministry of Amy Carmichael. Oh, how much I wish I had been her friend! Thank You for moving her head, heart, and hand to chronicle the lessons You so faithfully and lovingly taught her as she walked in obedience day by day, because as I read about her life and her astounding ability to depend on You and trust You for all things - it feels like she IS my friend. And I am thrilled that she is - my sister!


A confession and a renewed commitment to accountability.

I have been unsettled in my spirit lately, and the Lord graciously relieved my angst by causing me to stumble across this post written one year ago. While my current struggle is not with actual words, the challenge is also well-aimed at the origin of words. The heart.
For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
To be honest, I think I am more convicted by this now than I was last year, and I am grateful. For the heart is deceitfully wicked, and the tongue, as Scripture says, cannot be tamed. But we can intentionally seek to lessen its power day by day, month by month, year by year. Let's go out fighting!


When I was a freshman in college, I was looking out the window of a friend's dorm room and made a comment about someone walking below. My friend looked up, locked eyes with me, and said, "You have a critical spirit." And then, she put her head back in her book and kept right on reading. I was stunned. What had I said? Nothing extreme or inappropriate, nothing different than what a hundred other women/girls had said before. So why the rebuke? 
It took me quite some time to figure it out. Time in the Word. Time in prayer. Time in silence. And time bathing in the humiliation that brings about humility.
One of my (many) life verses during my college years was this beauty:
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3
I had it written on my mirror in dry erase marker. I had it written on a note card that I carried with me at all times. I highlighted it in my Bible. I repeated it to myself over and over and over. Yet I still managed to drive a steamroller through the door and shoot the guard more times than I care to admit.

I know I am not alone. I have listened to countless messages and sermons, read dozens of books, heard several testimonies, and witnessed women sobbing on my couch ... each one confessing embarrassing moments of gossip, meddling in the business of others, slandering someone, making wrong judgments in ignorance, or carelessly saying something that cannot be unsaid.
And relationships were either damaged or destroyed.

What do they all have in common? Lack of self-control and pride. 
Not thinking before speaking.
Not praying before thinking or speaking.
Not asking the right questions or enough questions to make sure all of the facts have been presented.
Not listening with the intent of understanding.
Not prayerfully pondering before answering.
Not asking if the information is private or can be shared.
Not confessing, repenting and seeking forgiveness immediately after doing one/all of the above.
And the list goes on.

Almost 30 years have passed since I stood looking out of that dorm room window, but the sting of those words feels as fresh as if it took place moments ago. And I am thankful because I need to feel the sting often to remind me that I will never have full control over my tongue this side of heaven.
I will always need to pray for wisdom and discretion to know when to speak and when to be silent.
I will always need to remember that "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)
I will always have to remember that what is said and what is heard do not necessarily match. 
And I will always have to remember that though it may not be my intent, my words can hurt, offend, and wound someone deeply.

Praise the Lord for His forgiveness and grace when I fail to remember. 
And I pray others are willing to offer that same forgiveness and grace when I fail them.

Whenever I steamroll the door and shoot the guard of my mouth, the Lord is gracious to forgive, restore, and encourage me. One way He does this is through the testimonies of others. This particular writing was penned by a woman I greatly admire and respect. She was beloved, revered, and considered a pillar of the Christian faith. She was also feisty and shared about her struggle to control her tongue. Her story encourages me with the thought that maybe, just maybe, like her, my tongue will one day bear fewer teeth marks. Not because I will have mastered the art of controlling it, but because I will have handed over the reins to the One who is Master of all.


When to Keep Your Mouth CLOSED ~  Elisabeth Elliot

In the Heat of Anger
-Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
-Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.
Proverbs 14:7

When You Don't Have All the Facts
-He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. Proverbs 18:13
-The first to present his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17

If Your Words Will Offend a Weaker Brother
It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Romans 14:21

When You are Tempted to Joke About Sin
Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor. Proverbs 14:9

When You Would be Ashamed of Your Words Later
For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them. Proverbs 8:7, 8

When You are Tempted to Make Light of Holy Things
Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.
For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
Ecclesiastes 5:2, 3

When You are Feeling Critical
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 
Ephesians 4:29

If Your Words Would Convey a Wrong Impression
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Proverbs 17:27

When You are Tempted to Tell an Outright Lie
Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Proverbs 4:24

If Your Words Will Damage Someone's Reputation or Spread Gossip
An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire.
A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. Proverbs 16:7, 8 

If You Cannot Speak Without Yelling
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28

When You are Tempted to Flatter a Wicked Person
It is not good to show partiality in judgment.
He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”
Him the people will curse; nations will abhor him.
But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
And a good blessing will come upon them. Proverbs 24:23-25

When You are Supposed to be Working Instead
In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

When It is Time to Listen 
-Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
James 1:19
-If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13
-A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2

Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from trouble. Proverbs 21:23

Imagine if we all committed to obeying these commands.
The world would be much quieter, and we could fill the silence with encouragement and praise!


Wedding Reception FUN!

Graham & Staci were married May 4th in Arizona, but celebrated with California friends today!
Gorgeous day - gorgeous park - and a very happy Bride & Groom.
Thank you for letting us share in your joy!

 Julie (Graham’s mom) came out of nowhere - just appeared in my life -
and became a faithful and fabulous FRIEND! 

Thankful to have snapped a few selfies with my guys!
Ellie was with us, but was so busy playing with and taking care of the G3 - 
she never made it in front of the camera. 

Two of our oldest, delightful, wonderful friends were at the reception - Bruce & Charise!
We have been friends since college and spent almost every night together (as young married couples) talking, eating dinner, watching stupid shows, and laughing a TON until they were called to the mission field in Chihuahua, Mexico. Oh, how we MISSED them!
Dennis and Bruce have been best friends since the day they met - in 1988 - and they literally (yes, I am using the word correctly) talk every.single.day. Half the time Charise and I roll our eyes at their nonsense, but we know they are truly good for each other - in every way.
Charise and I taught Pre-K together for a year and created a deep bond because of it.
She is a unique woman who can make me laugh with just a facial expression. She is a GEM.
What an unexpected DELIGHT it was to see them today. It felt like we were 22 again, and I loved it!


To the birth mother of a foster baby ...

Dear sister,

As I eagerly await the call for a baby who needs a temporary home, I cannot help but think of you.

I don’t know you.
I don’t know your name.
I don’t know your profession, your educational background, or your family.
I don't know your hobbies, your favorite holiday, or your favorite ice cream.
I don't know your greatest joy or your greatest sorrow.
We may have everything in common or share no interests.

But I know we share one thing ... the heart of a mother. ❤

I don’t know your story.
I don’t know why your baby isn't with you right now, or what you have to do so he can come home.
But I do know there is a danger in knowing only one part of a story.
Society assumes they know the "why" and "what" of your situation. It decides where the blame lies and makes judgments accordingly. All without knowing you.
But the truth is, even if we did know the whole story, every single detail, those facts should elicit compassion, empathy, and grace because all of us have a story. All of us need forgiveness. All of us need a second chance.
We have made mistakes. We have regrets. We carry burdens from the past that must be worked through and resolved, and some are easier to bear than others. We have wounds and scars made by those we love and thought we could trust, and some that were inflicted by perfect strangers.
None of us are whole. None of us are without flaw. And some of our most broken pieces are not because of things we have done, but because of things that have been done to us.

When I think about you I wonder, "Has anyone ever told you how valuable you are? Has anyone ever told you that you are beautiful? Has anyone ever told you that you are intelligent and can do anything if you work hard to accomplish your goal? Has anyone ever pointed out and praised your strengths? Has anyone ever asked you to share your deepest feelings and fears? Has anyone ever told you that you are worthy of love because you are you, not because of what you do or how you perform? And most importantly, I wonder if anyone has ever told you that you were fearfully and wonderfully made by an amazing God?"

I don’t know the circumstances that brought you to this place, but I know there is nothing you have done, nothing you have thought, nothing you have experienced that cannot be forgiven and redeemed by an amazing, loving, and forgiving God. 
I know what it is like to walk in shame, I know what it is to feel like you are "not enough," and I know too well the sting of rejection. But dear sister, none of those things have to define you. They may be part of your past, they may be part of your present, but they do not have to be your future or your legacy.

Though I have never had a child removed from my home, I did give birth to a lifeless son. I understand the pain, the deep sorrow, the questions, the confusion, and the fear of not having your child with you. But sister, your child lives! You have an opportunity that I will never have with my son. How I envy you! You have the chance to start fresh! You can follow your plan, surround yourself with people who will encourage and support you, ask for help, take classes, heal your body ... whatever may be needed ... and be reunited with your precious baby. ❤

Motherhood is overwhelming. Even in the best of circumstances, taking care of and raising children is one of the hardest jobs in the world. When circumstances are not the best, the difficulties are enhanced and the stressors are magnified. I imagine you feel like you are drowning with no one on land willing to pull you out of the water. But sister, as lonely as you might feel, and as unsupported as you might be, there is always someone ready to throw a life ring. They may not be in your family, in your friend group, or even in your community, but that is the beauty of the large world in which we live. You can reach out to a different community, a different group of people so they become your family, your friends, and your support.

I don’t know you, sweet birth mom, but I wish I did. I wish I could invite you into my home to sit on my couch while I hold your baby and listen to you share your story. I wish I could hold your hands, look you in the eye and tell you that you are valuable. That you matter. You matter because you were created by a loving God who molded you with His own hands for a purpose.
I wish I could hug you. I wish I could introduce you to other women who have walked where you now walk, to encourage you and give you hope that where you are right now - does not have to be your "forever."

I may never have the privilege of meeting you, but I am thankful I can still give you a fantastic gift without ever looking upon your sweet face. I can take you to the Throne of Grace where the God of heaven reigns, and where He invites His children to come before Him boldly with their requests!
I will pray for you.
I will pray for your baby and/or your children.
I will pray that the Lord surrounds you with people who want you to succeed and will be part of that success.
I will pray for your physical strength, your emotional strength, and for the Lord to meet your spiritual needs.
But, I think, my greatest prayer will be that the Lord will remove the dirty, cracked lenses through which you have been looking at yourself, and replace them with crystal clear lenses that show you the truth of who you are. You may not know Him, you may not want to know Him, but He knows you dear, sweet sister, and you are precious in His sight. ❤

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17, 18