9.30.2019

Mindful Mondays.

The best way to begin a beautiful Monday?
With Scripture and thoughtful/challenging words from someone who walks with God!

(Diary excerpt from James Smith's autobiography, "Marvelous Mercy!")

April 16, 1854.
During the past week I have had one of the most severe asthmatic attacks I ever experienced. How painful to labor and gasp for breath, as I then did. How different the things of time appear under such circumstances! How soon one feels willing to spread the wings and fly away. May I daily live under the impression I then felt.

How I long . . .
for closer communion with God,
to feel more of the sweet power of piety in my own heart,
to walk with God in confidence,
to lean upon Him,
to cast every care upon Him,
to leave everything with Him,
to aim always, and in everything to glorify Him,
to walk through the world as if one was walking straight home to God - to dwell with and to enjoy Him forever!

Yet I feel that I need to be daily kept - to have the Lord's eye constantly upon me, and His everlasting arms always beneath me!

"Hold me up and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117

9.28.2019

Remembering and Rejoicing - because of her thoughtfulness.

Almost four years ago, the Lord grabbed our family by the scruffs of our necks and
forced us to take a long, hard look at the way we spend our time.
He also exposed us to the intense need for orphan care by continually (almost weekly) bringing us in contact with families who fostered and/or adopted and needed encouragement and support as they walked through the transition and difficulties that accompany orphan care.
His calling was clear: STEP UP and SERVE, Eastmans!

Two months later He sat me across from an exhausted and overwhelmed friend who needed encouragement, understanding, and support to endure the trials of caring for the three foster children she and her husband had adopted. Her tears were sincere. Her tears were profound.
The Spirit's conviction was clear: Serve THIS family!

We obeyed.
And we were blessed.
We spent three years taking care of their children, and in that time, our friendship grew deep roots.
So it was no surprise when their family became our first, our loudest, and our most enthusiastic cheerleaders when we said, "Yes!" to becoming a foster family.
They prayed for us, encouraged us, asked hard questions, supported us financially, and listened.
They had walked miles in the foster/adoption world before we ever took our first step, and then joyfully took our hands and said, "You CAN do this! And we will be right beside you every step of the way."
And they have been faithful to that promise.


Because my friend has a gigantic heart and is constantly thinking of others and looking for ways to bring them joy, I was not surprised when she went out of her way to choose, package, and mail me an early birthday present because she will be galloping through the streets of her childhood on my actual birthday.
(Her passion for orphan care permeates everything she does - including gift selections.
I LOVE the necklace she chose for me!)

Learn to do right; seek justice. 
Defend the oppressed. 
Take up the cause of the fatherless; 
plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:17


Thank you, Julie, for years of faithful friendship.
You encourage me, you make me laugh, you challenge my thinking, and you model what true sacrifice really looks like. And best of all, you are 100% authentically YOU. Never do you pretend to be perfect, never do you pretend to have all of the answers, never do you try to be anything you are not.
You are just JULIE.
And JULIE is exactly who the world wants and needs! ❤
I love you, friend!

9.27.2019

A wonderful (and embarrassing) discovery!


Today I am rejoicing because I gained another year of LIFE!

I was bummed that I am turning 49 this year (because it sounds SO much closer to 50 πŸ˜†)
until I realized - I will TURN 48 in October!

Once again (for this is not the first time), I gave up an entire year of life because I always project the age of my next birthday the day after I celebrate the current one! 🀦🏻‍♀️πŸ™„

Once I did the math and realized I will ONLY be 48 I yelped,
“YES! I got a year back! I GOT A YEAR BACK!” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

I’m sure this will happen again. And again. And again.
When I think I am turning 100, I will discover I am only 89!πŸ•ΊπŸ½πŸ’ƒπŸ»

The best part of this discovery?
I gained another year of life with THIS man! πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ’™πŸ™ŒπŸΌ

9.23.2019

Learning to Serve SelfLESSly.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

This is the theme verse for our school year.
Love. Affection. Honor.
Lovely sentiments, yes?
Unfortunately, when selecting this verse, I failed to take into account the incredibly competitive nature of the Eastman family line. A competitive mindset reads the word "outdo" and interprets it as "WIN! WIN! WIN!" Sometimes coupled with the lovely image of an Olympic athlete crossing the finish line in glory, and sometimes attached to the image of an MMA cage fight.
In the Eastman house, of late, it was the latter.

Instead of looking for ways to honor each other best, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie decided that to "outdo one another in honor" meant competing over who could care for Baby E best.
They fought over who would sit by him in the van. They fought over who would help give him a bath. Who would warm his bottle. Who would get him after his nap. Who would change his diaper. (Yes! I am serious!) And on and on and ON in went. <insert long eye roll and slap to the forehead>
At first, I thought it was funny that they were fighting about who could out-serve the baby. For about a day. And then I realized - they were being selfish in their serving. Selfish. In serving. The irony was great.

So, this morning, we spent our devotion time focusing on a different verse.
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 explained that while it is absolutely wonderful and honoring to the Lord that each of them wants to take care of Baby E, hip-checking your sibling into the wall so you can get to the crib faster is not the best way to go about it.
The desire to serve Baby E?  Fantastic!
The desire to be first - the desire to get your own way? Not so much.
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 

After a long discussion, prayer, questions, examples, and some laughter - they got it.
If we are going to serve foster babies and their families, we must also serve one another.
It will not always be easy. It will not always be fun. But it will always be right. ❤

In order to add ACTION to our new thinking, we sat at the table with a notebook and pen and wrote down the ways they had been selfish in serving Baby E. (They surprised me by adding two more items when I thought the list was complete!)
After listing all of the ways they can serve him each day, we created a "Serving Schedule" - together - each choosing (and agreeing on) the days of the week they wanted for every task.
And we had FUN!
(As Mary Poppins declared, "You find the fun and SNAP! The job's a game! 🎢And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake, a lark, a spree, it's very plain to see! 🎢)
When all was agreed upon, I made a final copy, we placed the sheet on the kitchen cabinet, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie read through the entire document (I love this photo!), and they walked away smiling and excited about the new "Serving Selflessly Schedule."
Friends, today was a ♥GREAT♥ day!

I am present during each of these tasks, of course, but if I am not careful, I could put Baby E to bed at night without ever having actually touched him during the day since there are three Eastmans constantly competing for his attention and affection.
I am not complaining, I assure you!
Witnessing the joy my children have for these foster babies and watching them mature and learn valuable life skills through the process makes my heart overflow with gratefulness that the Lord has called us to this ministry.
It makes me laugh that 'serving selfishly' is one of our foster care "problems."
But it also blesses me because it reminds me of something a wise, godly woman once said.
"God does not just call parents to foster care. He calls the FAMILY."

As unpleasant as it is to listen to selfish bickering as our kids throw elbows to feed oatmeal to the baby, I love that they WANT TO. Their zeal to serve may outweigh their compassion at times, but I will take a passion for serving over apathy any day!

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

9.16.2019

An excellent Monday Morning meditation!

Prayer is . . .
the mightiest weapon that God has placed in our hands,
the best weapon to use in every difficulty,
the surest remedy in every trouble,
the key that unlocks the treasury of promises,
the hand that draws forth grace and help in time of need,
the silver trumpet that God commands us to sound in all our necessity,
the cry He has promised always to listen to, just as a loving mother listens attentively to the cry of her child.

Be sure that no time is so well spent, as that which a man spends on his knees.

What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others?
I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits in private prayer.
I believe that those who are not eminently holy, pray little - and those who are eminently holy, pray much.

What is the cause of most backslidings?
I believe, as a general rule, one of the chief causes is neglect of private prayer.
People are backsliders on their knees, long before they backslide openly in the eyes of the world.

Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor.
Jesus can understand you!

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2

- J. C. Ryle

9.14.2019

Easy? No. 100% absolutely worth it? YES!

A few days ago someone pronounced, "You make foster care look so easy!"
While I am confident the person meant it as a compliment, I almost choked on my drink.
Easy? As in little-or-no-effort-required easy? 
I doubt that particular adjective has ever been linked to the foster care world, and though I am not a prophet, I think it is safe to predict that they will not be linked together in the future.

The dictionary definition of "easy" reads:

easy adjective
\ ΛˆΔ“-zΔ“ \
1
a: causing or involving little difficulty or discomfort
b: requiring or indicating little effort, thought, or reflection
2
a: not severe: lenient
b: not difficult to endure or undergo
3
a: marked by peace and comfort
b: not hurried or strenuous
4
a: free from pain, annoyance, or anxiety
b: marked by social ease
5
a: giving ease, comfort, or relaxation
b: not burdensome or straitened

I have not met every foster parent, foster sibling, or extended family member in the foster care world, but the ones I have met? They would laugh out loud if someone read this definition, then looked up and asked, "Isn't that a fanTAStic description of what it is like to be a foster family?!"

Is there beauty in foster care?
Overwhelming moments of sweetness and joy?
Prayers answered?
Hurdles knocked down?
Miracles performed?
Fantastic opportunities to show the love of Christ to others?
Countless opportunities to educate and promote the need for and the joy of foster care?
Spiritual growth and sanctification?
Learning to trust God in the unknown?
Increased compassion after learning the "what" of the "why?"
Multiple opportunities to sacrifice comfort and self for the good of another?
The joy of investing in the life of a child?
The joy of investing in the life of a broken and hurting birth parent?
Milestones reached?
Goals accomplished?
Emotions magnified?
Sacrificial and unconditional love understood and expressed?
Yes!
Yes!
A thousand times YES!

But that is only one side of foster care. There is another.


Isolation.
Rejection.
Disappointment.
Sorrow.
Pain.
Fear. Of the unknown and the known.
Unanswered questions.
Answers no one wants.
Anger.
Distrust.
Resentment.
Suffering.
Unmet expectations.
Loss.

Any or all of these can be experienced by the child, the birth parents, and/or the foster family. Just as the joys of foster care can touch everyone involved, the isolation and sorrow can affect everyone too.

BUT GOD.

He has not called one of His children to a life of ease.
He has not called one of His children to a life of comfort.
He has not called one of His children to live without suffering or sorrow.
In fact, not only does He call us TO suffer, He commands us to rejoice IN our suffering!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes. Psalm 119:71


Foster care may have hundreds of hurdles to clear. It may be exhausting. It may stretch us farther than we ever thought we could possibly be stretched. It may push us to constant prayer and daily surrender because of the unknowns and potential dangers. It may require that we walk alone because there are few who share our passion or want to join us. It may require a level of sacrifice we didn't know existed.
All of these things may be true.
BUT GOD. 
He demands that it be done.
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 31:7-8

Like anything God calls us to do, we must obey. Immediately. "Delayed obedience is disobedience." (as a wise person once said) And our obedience must be tethered to purpose, passion, and JOY. For the Lord does not abandon those He calls. He equips. He encourages. He establishes our steps.
He has no choice but to do so! He is the Good Shepherd. And with the Lord as our Shepherd, we are never, ever in want.

Foster care may not be "easy," but it is wonderful. And absolutely, positively, without a single doubt, worth every second of effort, joy, sorrow, surrender, and sacrifice. And in all of it, both the delightful and the difficult, we can CHOOSE to have joy because it is not about us. It is about HIM!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. I Corinthians 15:58

9.04.2019

The Eastman Academy begins its 15th year!



Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
Our 2019-2020 Student Body!

Our theme for the year: Honor through serving
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10





Josiah - 6th grade


Isaiah - 5th grade


Ellie - 4th grade


Baby E is our honorary student because it is never too early to start learning!


Caleb - 10th grade
The Lord provided a wonderful alternative school option for Caleb this year, so while he is no longer a student at The Eastman Academy, he is a student and we want to celebrate him!


Micah - our first alumnus - beginning his second year of junior college.


 Luke - our second alumnus - beginning his first year of college.


Caleb and the graduates humored me by joining us for our back-to-school photo shoot.
And it made my mother's heart quite happy!



I LOVE this photo!

9.03.2019

A new tradition!


A new tradition was started today!
A PRE-SCHOOL DAY!

Now that all of my little people are not so little anymore, I decided to include them in planning our school schedule. It is THEIR school day after all!
All of our curriculum, notebooks, backpacks, pens, pencils, scissors etc., were placed on the dining room table along with blank sheets of paper for planning.
I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were, but Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie far exceeded them! Everyone had a voice, and surprisingly, they created a schedule without one argument.
(This is NOT normal in the Eastman world!)
We planned our field trips, made a wish list, and worked all of our core subjects around Baby E’s nap times. (Homeschooling with a one-year-old running around is not easy.)
Now - we are ready for Day 1 of the 2019-2020 school year!
Let the learning BEGIN!


I let them watch a movie in the middle of the day, so this photo captures their enthusiasm!


Sometimes the simplest things bring me the greatest joy! When shopping for a new school calendar, I stumbled upon this gem and could not stop giggling every time I looked at it.
Ellie declared, “Mom! You HAVE to get the giraffe calendar! You will be happy every time you see it!”
So Clara (yes, I named her) joined our family and will make me smile as she guides us through each week of our school experience. 

My girl knows me well! Thanks, Ellie!

9.02.2019

Happy Birthday, Luke!


18 years!
18 years ago the doctor literally had to force you into the world because you were unwilling to enter on your own. The first sign that Luke Samuel Eastman had his own mind and his own agenda.
And nothing has changed since then!
You are a young man of strength.
A young man of purpose.
A young man with ideas and plans.
A young man who knows what he wants and will do whatever it takes to get it.
These are excellent qualities when tethered to Scripture, humility, and sensitivity to others, and we have always prayed you would use your strengths, skills, and plans for good, willing to surrender every one of them if the Lord turned your feet in a different direction than the one you intended to travel.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

You are adventurous.
A risk-taker.
Fiercely loyal.
A great listener.
Willing to work.
Willing to serve.
A faithful friend.

As you enter college, purpose in your heart to pursue Christ more fiercely and more passionately than you pursue a career. Seek Him first - often - and with expectation. For when you seek Him, you will find Him!

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him,
if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33
I love those who love Me, and those who seek me diligently find Me.
Proverbs 8:17

♥ I love you, Luke Samuel. ♥
And I will keep dancing with you until the end of time.
Mom

9.01.2019

This.


I need Thee every hour,
most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like Thine
can peace afford.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour,
stay Thou near by;
temptations lose their power
when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, 
in joy or pain;
come quickly, and abide,
or life is vain.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need thee every hour;
teach me Thy will,
and Thy rich promises
in me fulfill.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.