Ellie's best birthday!

Yesterday morning, on Ellie’s birthday, I asked,
“Wouldn’t it be SO COOL if the Lord brought us a foster baby on your birthday?!?”
She enthusiastically nodded her head and grinned from EAR to EAR!

And then, two hours later, on the way to a birthday lunch/swim party at my sister’s house - we got a call - and Baby E joined our family in the afternoon!

To quote Ellie: “This was my best birthday EVER!!!!”

We will always weep for the “why” of foster care, but we will also rejoice that we are able to care for these precious lives when the Lord brings them into our family - until they are able to go home.❤

(Public photos of foster children are not allowed, so we are going to get very creative using feet!)


Happy Birthday, Ellie!

Nine years!
It has been nine years since the Lord gave us the daughter we never thought we would have
and the daughter we didn't know we NEEDED.
He gave us our Ellie! ❤

You are a composite of every other Eastman.
Every single quality you possess can be linked to your dad, to me, or to your brothers.
Yet you are 100% uniquely YOU!
And perfectly happy to be so.

Bursting with energy.
A leader.
Quick to laugh.

You are all of these things and more, Ellie Ruth Eastman!

We have no idea what the Lord has planned for your life, but we are confident He is going to do something unique, for He did not place you at the end of a string of five older brothers without a purpose!
You are absolutely fearless, willing to stand up to the greatest opposition without giving one thought to the consequences. While this does not always bode well for you in our home <grin>, it is a
quality that allows people to remain steadfast and immovable in the face of tremendous obstacles.
You do not accept, "You can't." Ever.
Your mind races, always looking for another way to get around the barrier in front of you, and it does not stop until you have found the solution. This really is an amazing skill, Ellie, and we pray the Lord will sanctify this character quality so it can be used to wonderfully benefit others and bring Him glory.

We still remember laughing when the doctor declared, "You're having a girl!"
(Even the medical community thought the female gene did not exist in our family pool!)
But the Lord knew.
He knew we needed you.
He has been teaching, refining, stretching, and blessing us since the day we saw your face for the first time.
And we are, and always will be, forever grateful. ❤

We love you, Ellie Ruth!
Happy 9th Birthday!


Celebrating 26 years of MARRIAGE!

Today we spent time talking about our life together as husband and wife and had fun making a list of the ways the Lord has worked in us - together - these past 26 years.
He has walked with us always, for on our own we would not have made it past year two.
In our foolishness, our pride, our selfishness - He was there.
Always prodding, always challenging, always convicting, always encouraging.
Dennis and I are not celebrating 26 years of marriage today because of anything we have done.
We are celebrating 26 years of marriage because of a faithful God who absolutely refused to let us go.
It is because of Him, and Him alone, that our commitment to, our faithfulness in, and our love for one another stands firm.
We are and will remain, forever grateful to God for such a gift.

❤ 26 Reasons To Praise God On Our Anniversary! 

1. He has given us seven wonderful children, six of whom we have enjoyed on earth, and one who has only known the beauty of heaven.
2. We are not the same people who said, "I do" two decades ago. The Lord has changed us and grown us and stretched us beyond what we could have imagined.
3. We appreciate each other more than we did when we were young.
4. We have learned how to disagree (dare we say fight?) respectfully.
5. We have made many wonderful memories together.
6. We have learned how to overlook offenses instead of dying on every hill.
7. Respectful, thoughtful communication became a priority after years of apathy.
8. We learned how to listen to each other.
9. When one is in the depths of despair, the other knows how to pull him/her out.
10. Each of us has an enthusiastic, never-tiring cheerleader to scream, "Keep going! You can DO THIS!" when one of us wants to quit.
11. We have learned how to forgive harsh offenses and deep hurts.
12. He taught us how to embrace our differences instead of fight against them.
13. When we lost Matthew, He caused us to cling to one another instead of pushing each other away.
14. He has given us the desire of our hearts by allowing us to become a foster family!
15. He has used us to refine one another, constantly sanding the rough edges to remove more of "self."
16. We have suffered together in the fire of affliction and come out of the flames stronger.
17. We laugh together.
18. We weep together.
19. We pray together.
20. We have enjoyed beautiful friendships with godly couples who make us better.
21. Trust has been earned, appreciated, and cherished after being taken for granted for far too long.
22. He has planted us in a God-fearing, biblical-teaching, faithfully-led church and an amazing church body with whom we worship and learn and serve.
23. He has blessed us with a godly couple who disciples, prays for, rebukes, challenges, rejoices and weeps with, and encourages us to know and love God more; and therefore, view each other and our children through a biblical lens.
24. We seek each other's counsel and respect one another's perspective.
25. Being complete opposites has taught us to see life through different eyes instead of assuming there is only "one way." And doing so has made life much more colorful and exciting!
26. We have learned that the best thing we can do for our marriage is to seek Christ first and foremost because when He is our focus, all of the details of life sort themselves out and stay in their proper place.

Happy Anniversary, Dennis Eastman!
Today I am praising God that He purposefully chose us for each other. We had no idea what we were signing up for when we said, "I do," twenty-six years ago, but the Lord DID!
And praise Him - He is not finished with us yet!
I love you. ♥ Michelle


Such a life!

Rarely am I granted the privilege of consuming an entire biography in one day, but illness afforded me such an opportunity to do so with this treasure, and I am grateful!

Having long-admired her husband, I was eager to read about the life of the woman behind the man, and I was not disappointed. 

Susannah Spurgeon is a terrific model of what it looks like to serve your husband with faithful attention and affection, train your children to fear and love the Lord, and serve your Savior with passion and purpose. 

Understanding her makes me appreciate the godly preacher whom she loved with fervor all the more, and I am grateful the author dedicated time, energy, and enthusiasm to put her story into print.

Her great-great-granddaughter captures the essence of Susie in these two sentences:
"She was rooted in Christ, she abided in Him, and she made sure she went to Him in all situations. When there were good times, she gave Him the praise, and when there were trials, she fell on her knees before Him."

Oh, to be a Susannah! Firmly planted on the Rock of Ages and faithfully declaring His glory and goodness with every breath.

Thank You, Lord, for such a life!


Remembering my pain - to connect with theirs.

The day after I passed Baby L from my arms into those of her grandmother, a precious friend (and fellow foster mom) asked me, "How are you feeling about L leaving?"
A seemingly simple question, I thought, but when I started writing my response I was overwhelmed with sorrow. I had already walked through all of the "lasts" with Baby L since we had the privilege of knowing it was our last day with her, and I had already connected the sadness of saying goodbye to her with the death of our son Matthew. What I had not done, however, was figure out the "why."
Why were the two so inextricably linked?
Stillbirth and foster care.
The "loss" piece was obvious, but something was missing.

I knew I would feel deep emotion when Baby L left us, but I confess, I was completely surprised (dare I say blindsided?) by how much it mirrored the pain of losing Matthew. How could my heart ache so strongly for a baby I had known scarcely thirty days? How was I able to weep so sincerely when I knew she would be leaving us? Why did it hurt so much?

The old Michelle would have run from the pain. Distracted herself. Drowned her sorrows in 72 ounces of ice-cold Coke and giant bags of Goldfish crackers.
But this time? I refused to run. I sat right down in the middle of it and let myself feel.
It was hard, but it was good.
The emotion. The tears. The memories. The questions. The fears. The unknown. I invited it all in.
That is where the Lord met me. Right there in my mourning. And He answered the "why."

I need to remember. 
I need to remember the overwhelming sorrow that comes with losing a child.
I need to remember the darkness that accompanies grief. 
I need to remember the confusion, the fear, the "what ifs" and the "if only's."
I need to remember that even though people surround you, it feels like no one else "gets it."
I need to remember the feeling of helplessness and lack of control.
I need to remember so I can empathize with every birth mom who weeps because her child is in the arms of another. Including my own.

Without remembering my pain, I cannot connect with theirs.

Thank You, Lord, for revealing this truth! And thank You for not allowing Your children to be swallowed by sorrow, for You are a God who saves those who are crushed in spirit, and heals the brokenhearted. You let weeping last through the night, but You bring back JOY in the morning!

Interestingly … when I returned to the group home to unite Baby L with her grandmother, the social worker who witnessed the exchange shook my hand, held onto it tightly, stared at me for a long moment, and then he declared, “We will be calling you SOON. How many beds do you have open?”
I smiled and thought, “Is this how it will be, Lord? Grieving the loss of one baby while learning to love another? If so, YES!”
Serving in sorrow.
The best way to heal.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalms 126:5-6 


Our First Goodbye.

We knew we were entering a world of "goodbyes" when we became a foster family.
We knew they would be difficult, for when you say goodbye to someone you love, they carry a piece of your heart with them when they go.
It is not like losing someone to death.
But it is - a loss.

It has been an interesting internal struggle for me because the thought of giving up a foster baby evokes the same kind of emotion I felt when Matthew died.
I remember walking into the hospital room, seeing the baby bassinet, and weeping because I knew he would never be lying inside of it.
There were so many "nevers." I would never hear him cry, never nurse him, never hear him say, "Mommy."

Last night, in the quiet of the evening, my mind began thinking those same things about Baby L.
I will never see her standing in her crib in the morning, reaching for me to come and get her.
I will never get to hold her again.
I will never again see her gorgeous smile.
Hear her laugh.
Feel her hugs.
See her legs swinging from the highchair.
Hear her squealing with glee while splashing in the bathtub.
I will never look down at her anxious face as she reaches for me to pick her up, hold her, and quiet her fears.

She is gone.

And this is exactly how it is supposed to be.

The ache in my heart means I loved her well.
It would not hurt if I did not love.
Loving someone else's child is what we signed up for.
And I will do it again and again and again until there are no more babies who need a piece of my heart.

I thought we were going to be used to change the lives of each baby that entered our home, but the truth is - they are changing ours. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is the song that was playing when I brought Baby L home, and it is as fitting today, as I mourn the loss of her tiny footsteps in our house, as it was when I held her in my arms for the first time.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

All the earth will shout
Your praise
Our hearts will cry
These bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only


An amazing LIFE - an amazing MAN.

Every time I read a book I make a new friend.
When I read a biography/autobiography of a godly man or woman, I am pulled into a discipleship relationship that is wanted, appreciated, and thoroughly enjoyed.
And, every biography leads to another for the subject of each one gives credit for their personal passion and purpose to those who walked before them.
I LOVE it!
This book was no exception. Actually, it is not a book - but a printed version of his personal journal! Reading someone's private thoughts is a precious thing for it gives insight into who they truly are, and reading the thoughts of a man like Andrew Bonar was an honor and a joy.

As always, it would be impossible for me to sum up his life with a few quotes, and I would have to type out at least 200 pages of his journal to feel like I portrayed him accurately. But I do want to share some of the quotes that gripped me, creating a love for a man of God who lived a hundred years serving and praising God before I ever took a breath on this earth. I pray he will encourage you as he encouraged me!

"I ought to put into practice in common duties that saying, 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.' By the grace of God and the strength of His Holy Spirit I desire to lay down the rule not to speak to man until I have spoken with God; not to do anything with my hand till I have been upon my knees; not to read letters or papers until I have read something of the Holy Scriptures. I hope also to be able at 'cool of the day' to pray and meditate upon the name of the Lord." 

"Have often found of late the verse powerful, Psalm 37:4: 'Delight thyself.' The more I have been able to make God my chief joy the less do I feel in any way tormented with earthly desires, and I see myself surrounded with comforts."

"Tried this morning specially to pray against idols in the shape of my books and studies. These encroach upon my direct communion with God, and need to be watched."

After the birth of one of his daughters he writes, "I feel tonight as if I and all the house were lying down to rest amid mercies on every side, as if the fragrance of the Lord's special kindness were spreading through every room in the house, quietly ascending back to the Giver."

When his brother James was sick: "James is weaker, but lies in peace waiting the issue. Felt after speaking today how much may be effected by a very few words when the person is filled with the Holy Ghost. We can afford to be short."

"Reviewing the past, I see this fact in my life, worthy of continual admiration and thanks, that for more than thirty years I have never been shaken in my quiet resting on the Lord Jesus. I have been many, many times unhappy for a time, but never led to doubt my interest in the Lord Jesus. The Lord has never let my eyes close to the one foundation. He has kept me from mixing up my feeling with Christ's work. It has been all of grace, the doing of the Spirit who takes the things of Christ and shows them. Shall I not love the Holy Ghost with my whole heart?"

"The Falls of Niagara. Learnt there to stand still and wonder. Prayed over Isaiah 11:2, 3 very specially." 
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2, 3

In a note to his daughter he says, "Are you very thankful? You know the difference between gladness and thankfulness? Gladness looks at the kindness and takes it all; but thankfulness looks at the Giver, and love Him for it all."

"Our unwillingness is our inability."

"Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle."

He encouraged the sick, "Think upon the Lord when you can, and He will think upon you when you can't."

"A man is never safe in rebuking another if it does not cost him something to have to do it."

"It is a test of our progress in sanctification if we are willing to have our faults pointed out to us, without getting angry. Why should we take offense at being told we are not perfect?"

One speaking about the influence of Andrew Bonar: "His presence in a meeting acted at all times like a charm. As he came in, overflowing with brightness and kindliness, his progress, as he went from one to another shaking hands, could be traced by the ripple of light that passed over every face."

The closing paragraph of the biographical section of the book ends with this beautiful tribute.
"In great loving-kindness, God spared him the bitterness of being laid aside from his beloved work. Though feeble, voice and hand were still busy in the Master's service, when, at that Master's bidding, he left his work below for the ministry of the Upper Sanctuary, where still 'His servants serve Him.'" ❤

I will close with one of the most quoted Psalms in his journal, which is no surprise after reading of the all-consuming joy he possessed because of the sincere delight he enjoyed as a child of God.

Psalm 103
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all His benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will He harbor His anger forever;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His love for those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
for He knows how we are formed,
He remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,
and His righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep His covenant
and remember to obey His precepts.
The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
and His kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you His angels,
you mighty ones who do His bidding,
who obey His word.
Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts,
you His servants who do His will.
Praise the Lord, all His works
everywhere in His dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.