Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A little gingerbread and creativity

We started a new tradition 3 years ago during Christmas....a gingerbread decorating contest. I love traditions and I have to say that this has been one of my favorites!! It's so fun to see just how creative God has made some of my family members and the kids love filling up their gingerbread guys/gals and houses with as much candy and frosting as possible.

This year we were really impressed to see the thought that the kids put into their creations. Micah made Yoda (from Star Wars), Grace made a house and so did Faith. Faith even put red frosting on the plate behind the house to create the door! And Titus...let's just say his guy was as colorful as possible with so much candy that it kept falling off :)

David took first place after the the votes were in. He used some extra props, but we had to say it was the most impressive gingerbread McDonalds we had ever through and all! :) Aaron and Kim worked together to make Raggedy Ann and Andy and tied for second with Michelle who made Minny Mouse. I don't have those pictures uploaded yet, but when I do, I'll put them in here.

Meditations from the bathroom

There is a quote up in my parents bathroom that I can't help but look at everyday when I am in there ( lets face it, we all end up in there at some point each day...maybe we should all have quotes and verses hung and taped up for meditation :) ). Anyway, after 10 days at my parents house, it has started to become very familiar and very dear the more I think about it. Before I go any farther, here is the quote:

"O Lord, Thou didst strike my heart with Thy word and I loved Thee."

The quote reminds me of the picture (above) of a flame that Bryan took a couple of days ago....a flame that was ignited by the strike of a match. How much greater and more brilliant is the work of Christ on my dead heart to ignite in me a love and passion for Him...and He did it through His Word (" then, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word." Romans 10:17). My prayer is that God's Word would become - to my heart - more glorious and more beautiful in 2009 then any year gone by and that my time of reading and study would overflow in deep love for Christ and for those around me!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Wonderful world of winter

We have had a wonderful week of games (ticket to ride is the neatest game!!!), sweet fellowship (it is a unbelievable joy to all be saved!), playing in the snow and just enjoying being together as one big family...and by big, I mean all 17 of us under one roof. :) We have had a special announcement - my baby sister Kimberly is pregnant with their first baby, Wii tournaments - Micah pulled off a perfect bowling game of 300 and beat everyone, deflating air mattresses in the middle of the night, so many people sleeping in one (main) room that we labeled it the "Hobo Hilton" :), lots of cuddle time with the newest addition to our family -Hannah Grace (James and Kimiko's 4 month old daughter), trips to get to my parents house that involved driving in blizzard conditions (Bryan), having to stay the night in a hotel on Christmas Eve (James and Kimiko), and spinning out on black ice, ending up in a ditch waiting for a tow truck at 2 in the morning (David and Michelle) and laughter...lots of laughter!!
And that was just last week...we have the blessing of being together all this week as well. :)

As far as the weather goes, we figured the pictures would speak for themselves :) and we rest in the fact that it has been another week of the Lord fulfilling His purposes, not only in hearts and lives in Hood River but in every inch of life around the world!

"Fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind fulfilling His Word." Psalm 148:8

**for inquiring minds, the snowman was made by all the Parker/Pichura/Johnson men and was 9 ft. tall...the kids diligently helped "pat it" into shape :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Samuel and Caleb!

We are so excited just thinking about the fact that next year, Lord willing, we will be celebrating Christmas with all our children home with us!!! Samuel and Caleb, though you are only a picture on our fridge and names on paper, you are deeply embedded in our hearts and we love you as much as the children we brought home from the hospital... your brothers and sisters. We pray for you daily and especially today we pray that the Lord has sent someone to your orphanage who is telling you, even know, about the love of our Savior and the why Christmas is all about celebrating Jesus' birthday!!! We love you and can't wait for you to come home!!!

The above link is a song by Third Day that was sent to us by a friend. It echos our hearts thoughts and prayers for Samuel and Caleb!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Eve Contemplation

At our Christmas Eve Service tonight a gal sang a song that contained this phrase:"God predestined that His Son would die...His death was all in His (God's) plan." Christ's suffering was a part of the glorious redemption that purchased our salvation, appeased God's wrath and gives us a reason to celebrate with great joy tomorrow and every day. His suffering was not just "by chance."

There was also suffering involved for Mary (and Joseph) although they held the greatest of privileges. The scoffing and scorn of those who knew them, the long journey to Bethlehem, the delivery of Jesus in a barn...without the help of a mom, mid-wife or any type of real comfort (can you even imagine????). Yet Mary didn't hesitate to say, "let it be to me according to Your word" and praised the Lord in the "magnificat" (found in Luke 1:46-55) where she started it by saying, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

God calls each of us to suffer, too. It is actually a part of His plan for our good! "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." (1 Peter 5:10) So, whatever you are facing this Christmas that might be causing you to fight for joy (and I have my fair share of fights too!), let's follow Mary's lead and ask God for a heart that says, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your word."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Glad I Watched the News

I was watching the news last night and was struck by one of the stories that was highlighted. The Greyhound bus system in Portland, Oregon was at a standstill and, as a result, many travelers were stuck without any place to go. To top it all off, there was no heat in the main terminal which is where everyone was staying for the night. I had watched the clip the night before last and thought to myself, "Oh, how awful for those people" very thankful to not be in their shoes myself.
Another family actually did something about it. They went out and bought lunch food and went to the terminal and made sandwiches for the stranded travelers. When the husband was interviewed he said through literal tears that how could they NOT do something!
I was amazed and humbled all at the same time. How many times, as a believer, have I had the opportunity to show the love of Christ, to be salt and light, to meet the needs of the poor and destitute and I don't even THINK about it, let alone do something. It's been too many times.
I don't know whether that family claimed Jesus as their Savior, but I do know that their actions should be ours. When we are meet the needs of those in need the Bible actually says we are honoring our Maker (Proverbs 14:31).
My prayer is that the Lord would help me to be more "others focused." That He would prick my conscience and give me a kick in the pants towards love and good deeds! That I would follow in Jesus' footsteps Who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28).
So, for the first time in a while, I was actually glad I had watched the news!

Where should I go for Christmas?

Matt. 4:18-19 "Now as Jesus was walking by the sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother...Jesus said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

Our Lord commands that we all be fishers of men. The command to "follow Me" in the Greek literally means 'Come Here'. The original text also has the term 'after' and this indicates the place we must come to: My (your) place is following after Him! This is His chosen place for me (you) this Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Whiter than snow

The kids and I made it to Hood River yesterday morning. It wasn't the original plan (my mom and sister were supposed to come and visit) but the weather has been amazingly snowy and we felt it would be best if I headed west instead of them coming to us. We left first thing Saturday morning, in between storms, and the typical 2 hour trip took almost 4 hours but we made it safe and sound! Almost 3 feet of snow has fallen at my parents and the kids have been having a great time playing in it. We miss Daddy and we are praying that he will be able to safely make it here on Christmas Eve.
The snow is also a sweet reminder to me of Isaiah 1:18: "...though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..." The snow, here, has covered everything. Even the tracks that little footsteps left a couple of hours ago cannot be seen anymore. It's as if they were never there. Praise God for His precious grace and the joyful truth that our sins our covered in the blood of Christ and we are new creatures in Him. It's a truth I need to preach to myself every day...a truth that makes the snow that much more beautiful!


The video is a little dark, but Titus' giggles were too sweet not to post! The kids were actually sledding right into the street!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Purpose..without the S!

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands." Psalm 138:8

"...My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose." Isaiah 46:10

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."
Proverbs 19:21

Our plan and desire was to see our dossier on it's way to Ethiopia before Christmas. That is not God's plan! We are still not able to get our home study approved and right now the outcome rests in the hand's of our local Superior Court judge. We are praying that she will help clear up this situation by the end of the day tomorrow (the court takes a break for two weeks during Christmas) and, if not, we rest in the fact that it will happen in God's timing. We know that we will eventually be able to move forward with this adoption, it just might not be as quickly as we thought it would happen. I have spent much of today pouring my heart out to God and finding sweet peace and joy in His everlasting arms! I can echo Solomon's words when he said in Proverbs 13:12 "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."

I also spent some time looking up the word "purpose" in the Bible ( I needed verses to be preaching to myself!!!)I was struck, anew, with the fact that every verse I looked up that talked about God's purposes for our lives was always in the singular form "purpose." God does not have multiple purposes for the things that He does...He has one glorify Himself! On the other hand, I often have many purposes for what I do: to make myself happy, to please someone else, to accomplish a goal, to get what I want, to see things done in order and on schedule, etc... And while these purposes may not be wrong, in and of themselves, they often leave me feeling empty and sad when they are not accomplished. Why? Because I have failed to be singular in purpose: To glorify God and to delight in Him above all else!

So, while today was not easy, it ends with thankfulness to the God Who never changes, Who will accomplish all His purpose and Who calls you and me to Magnify His holy name above all else!

**** Click the "Desiring God" blog link to the left and read Piper's post for Dec. 18th "From Protest to Praise" was great and along the same lines of my thoughts today! ****

The Greatest of all Rewards!

“It is my conviction that when we see Christ’s glory fully unveiled we will finally understand why the glory of Christ is the greatest reward of all in heaven. One glimpse of Jesus in the fullness of His glory will be worth all the pain and sorrow and suffering we have endured here on earth (Ps 17:15)” (John Macarthur)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thoughts from the Car

I was driving home today from Costco (by myself!!) listening to Christmas music and the words of one of the songs hit me in such a way that made my eyes well up and I had to listen to it all over again when it was done. Now, mind you, I have the song basically is not new to me at all...but I had gotten so familiar with the words that I missed the meaning, if that makes sense.
I wanted to share the words with you:

"God has sent His greatest treasure
Shown His love in greatest measure
Sending Christ to bleed and suffer
Purchasing our joy forever
Let the earth rejoice
O come and lift your voices

Christ the Lord is born today
He came from Heaven's throne
God is born a man today
To bring His children home

There are sacrifices that anyone who seeks to adopt has to make in order to bring their children home and we are learning what that is all about. But what blows my mind away, above all, is the sacrifice God made by killing His Son on the cross, so that we might be able to call God our Father and Heaven our home. In light of that, our Christmas celebration, Jesus' birthday, should be the greatest celebration of each year....let us rejoice!!!

To hear a part of this song and others that we have grown to love click here!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's Waiting Time

I am so excited to be able to share with you all that our dossier is on it's way to Washington DC. The courier will take it to the State Department on Friday to have it authenticated and then they will take it over to the Ethiopian Emabassy where it will be for a couple of days before making it's trip to CWA. We do have a big prayer request to share with you, though, in all of this. We have still not receieved approval from our government for adopting internationally. We were fingerprinted over a month ago, but we are still waiting and until that approval our dossier cannot be sent to Ethiopia. I know that we are not the only ones waiting for certain things to happen. We all have issues that we just wish were completed. I pray that the following quote by Paul Tripp encourages your heart as it has mine. May we all continue to wait expectantly and joyfully!

"Waiting on God isn't about the suspension of meaning and purpose. It's part of the meaning and purpose that God has brought into my life. Waiting on God isn't to be viewed as an obstruction in the way of the plan. Waiting is an essential part of the plan. For the child of God, waiting isn't simply about what I'll receive at the end of my wait. No, waiting is much more purposeful, efficient, and practical than that. Waiting is fundamentally about what I'll become as I wait. God is using the wait to do in and through me exactly what He's promised. Through the wait He's changing me. By means of the wait He's altering the fabric of my thoughts and desires. Through the wait He's causing me to see and experience new things about Him and His kingdom. And all of this sharpens me, enabling me to be a more useful tool in His redemptive hands."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth!

The Pichura Family has gotten a bit more holy these past couple of weeks...or should I say "holey"! Micah lost his second tooth this week and Grace pulled out her first tooth tonight (Nanny, get ready for a phone call!) . It's fun to experience these changes together. The kids are all excited to see what mom and dad leave for Grace when we take her tooth tonight :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rejoice Anyway!

Well, I'll be honest. I didn't expect my second post on our new blog to find me feeling a bit worn out and discouraged with life....but that is the truth...and I believe God can use both the wonderful times and the hard times to grow us and to display His glory. We want this blog to be "real"...both the good and the bad for the glory of God! So, if you are having a day like mine...maybe you can meditate on these truths, too, and rejoice anyway!

Habakkuk 3:17-18
"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food; the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no heard in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation."

Psalm 73:26
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Good Stuff

“In all your course, walk with God and follow Christ as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ’s hand, keeping your eye on the mark of the wounds on His hand and side.” (Jonathan Edwards)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Doing some thinking

We are memorizing a verse this week and thought it would be a fitting way to start our new family blog.

"I thought about my ways and turned my feet to Your testimonies." Psalm 119:59

You can't blog without thinking about what you want to write .... and the Bible clearly states that, for the believer, our thoughts should always lead us "home" to Jesus and end in obedient action to His precious Word; and that is our prayer for this blog: that it will not just be a great way to let everyone know what God is doing in the Pichura Family, but that it will help us to THINK about our ways, our choices, our days...and keep our feet on the path of righteousness!