Friday, October 30, 2009

The beauty of verses in their context


As I read through the Bible I am amazed at how many times I will come across a verse that is so familiar, or possibly even one that I have memorized, but I am ignorant to the CONTEXT in which that verse came from. The context of verses is of utmost importance and, today, the context in which I read the following verses just blew me away. Some of these verses I have had memorized for a long time and sung many times but being reminded of the context in which they came out of made them light up in ways they had not before.

I was reading in the book of Lamentations. The picture Jeremiah paints is so dismal that it can actually turn your stomach reading through his description of the destruction of Israel and Judah in Lamentations 1 and 2..."Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness...her uncleanness was in her skirts;...women eat the fruit of their womb, the children of their tender care". And over and over it says that the Lord has done all this. This is tough stuff!

Then comes Lamentations 3. The verses in 22 and following seem almost out of place but that is what makes them all the more glorious and their truth so beautiful:

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."

So, I sit here thinking about what Jeremiah wrote and being greatly humbled and reminded that I am NEVER without reason to praise the Lord. He is the same yesterday, today and always. His love continues to know no end, His mercy is boundless, each day is a gift from God's loving hands and shows His faithfulness in the midst of our unfaithfulness and He has been and will always be MORE than enough for all of me...the only portion that will truly satisfy. What hope, what joy, what peace, what quietness of heart comes resting in those truths and the God Who spoke them...no matter what our day may hold!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Managing my purpose...not my time


I received an email from a sister in Christ who, along with her hubby, adopted a little girl in Ethiopia when we were there. One of her sentences really stuck out to me and got me thinking. She said, "I have had to learn to manage my purpose for each day and not my time."

I had to read it a couple of times...it didn't make sense to me at first...but the more I thought about it, the more it struck my heart.

I love a schedule...and I truly believe that, especially with a house full of little ones, a schedule can just about be your best friend. But I would also say that it is very easy for me to almost become a slave to my schedule. I am not always quick to joyfully receive "God interruptions". I can get frustrated when things take longer than they should or when the kids are not to bed on time, etc...

That is why I am so thankful for Jena's words of wisdom. When I start to get frustrated or lack joy it is because I am fixed on time instead of on my purpose. My purpose it to live to the glory of God, to love my husband and be his faithful helper and encourager, to shepherd and train my children, and to manage and care for our home. THAT is my purpose. My concern should be for the souls and spiritual health of my family and, if that is getting done, that I should find great reason to rejoice, to welcome the interruptions as blessings from the Lord and, usually, more opportunities to be about "soul business".

If I focus on my purpose and not the time, I will be less concerned about getting the kids to bed on time and more concerned with having family devotions. I will be less concerned with finishing school in 4 hours and more concerned with having a cheerful disposition as I teach and encourage my kids. I will be less concerned about getting the kids down for rest and more concerned that their souls are at rest.

Now, believe me, I am not throwing away my schedule and I still plan on sticking as closely to it as possible....but I can also say that my heart got a needed adjustment and I am praying that the Lord would help me to be a gal that is known for living a life of purpose more than I am known for my scheduling ability!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Catching up

I sit here typing having just got back from dropping Bryan off at the airport. I'll be honest, I miss him already...miss knowing that he will not be home at night and that I will not get to wake up with him in the morning. Times like this are good, they just can be hard. It is good to be reminded just how precious marriage is, two becoming one so that you forget what it is like just to be "one". I love that! I love Bryan...I am so thankful for the almost 12 years of marriage God has given us, thankful for each year of growing and learning, of fighting less and less as we learn to appreciate more and more the differences that would often lead to an argument, the familiar beauty of living with someone who knows you so well and yet still loves you and wants to be with you. I was reading through the Song of Solomon in my daily reading this past week and was so blessed by the descriptions of love...they DELIGHTED in each other. And, by the grace of God, I am so thankful that each year it keeps becoming more and more of truth...the beauty of delighting in each other, delighting in the friendship, the fellowship and the love that is shared between just the two of us! I will miss my other half this week but I am also thankful to realize just how much I will miss him!:)

The kids will miss their daddy...their words and water filled eyes have already spoken to that...and that was just on the drive home!:) I keep reminding them that our joyful heart in letting Daddy go minister to pastors and their families in Mexico is OUR way of serving the Lord through this ministry and is how WE can come alongside of Daddy!

Okay....almost 12 hours later, I am back and going to attempt to finish my post! :) Caleb had his stitches taken out and bandages taken off this afternoon. WOW! I couldn't believe just how big is incision was under the bandages!!! It's amazing how well children recover! Having said that, though, he got on a bike after the appt. (a BIG no-no) and pulled at one of his incisions, started bleeding and ended up laying down for the rest of the afternoon in a lot of pain. Thankfully, they said I did not need to bring him back in and he is doing much better tonight.

Last Thursday was our last day of fevers (I am so thankful that we all got it at once even though it was a little insane for a couple of days!) and, as a result, we were joyfully able to open our home to Kimberly, Aaron and my sweet little niece Linnea!!! They got to our house Sunday afternoon and left Tuesday morning. I can't even begin to tell you just how precious those 40 hours with them was!!! It was such a gift from the Lord to have even seen them at all...and then to be able to spend a full day and a half with them was just beautiful!!!

My brother-in-law blessed my socks of with his sacrificial love for his nephews! He took all the boys to Lowes Monday morning and bought everything necessary for making "ladder golf". He then proceeded to spend the rest of the day with the boys cutting, painting, threading, drilling and piecing together this very fun game that we will use for a long time to come!
My boys adore their uncle and they LOVED every minute of their time with him! And, with the boys with Aaron, that gave us lots of girl time as well as the chance to sneak away to my favorite coffee shop (North Town) with Kimberly for some precious time of fellowship. What a treasure it is to have a sister who loves Jesus and loves to talk about Him!!! The kids also had fun playing some very serious games of "Jenga" with their aunt and uncle! We had some good laughs and some unbelievable saves!



My little niece, Linnea Joy, is just precious and we all enjoyed cuddling with her! Aaron and Kimberly are wonderful parents and it was a joy to watch them as a family!

I sit her with a smile on my face...recognizing that this past week was not how I would have planned it but it is exactly as the Lord had intended...and I am so thankful for the many lessons learned and the many undeserved blessings that we were able to experience! And, looking back helps me to look forward to this week, as well. It may not go how I plan, but I can rest assured that it will be exactly what I need so that I can be refined and made just a little bit more like Christ. And that is all I could ever ask for!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jesus...Name Above All Names

How well do I really know Jesus? It's a question I find myself asking pretty often. I read God's Word and see something new that I didn't notice before, something that helps me see Jesus in a way that I did not see Him before...learning more about His character, His suffering. Isaiah talks about Jesus being a man of sorrows and acquainted with suffering. He was despised and rejected. I often has seen these verses in Isaiah as referring to His death...but He spent much of His life, as well, despised and rejected, too. John 7 talks about the fact that even His own brothers did not believe that He was Who He said He was. My heart ached reading those verses as I know the precious blessing of having a family who loves and supports me and believes me.

How many other things have I missed or seen wrong or just not understood at all? As much as I want to know Jesus as He is and have a trust and faith in Him that is pure and true, how many times do my actions and my thoughts speak to something different? How often am I more like Jesus' brothers than I would ever want to be...not believing what He has said?

I read a beautiful post tonight talking about these very same thoughts. It was very much worth reading, chewing on, being humbled by and standing in awe of a Savior Who would love me even when I struggle to understand what it truly means to love Him back in the way He deserves and is worthy of! You can find the blog on my blog links under "Raw Christianity" or you can read David Gunderson's post right here:


Would I Like Jesus If I Met Him?
October 22, 2009

This is a question I’ve asked myself more and more the older I’ve gotten. It grows more haunting as the years go by, perhaps because each passing year is a big step closer to actually meeting Him. Not that haunted is the only thing I feel when I anticipate meeting Jesus. But you get the point.

Would I like Jesus if I met Him, here, today? I don’t know. I know that I’d love to meet my ultra-nice conception of Jesus with His perfect smile and soothing words and non-judgmental tone. I know I’d like to be the child on His lap, the adulteress being forgiven, the Mary being affirmed for sitting at His feet. But I wouldn’t want to be a compromised political ruler or an argumentative Jewish intellectual or an out-of-line disciple. And I wouldn’t want to be me.

Sure, it’s not just His kindness that’s attractive. I’d like to meet Him in His perfect righteousness, too, but I’d prefer that it be a long line of other people being compared to Him. Otherwise it would be beyond awkward (for me). It would be devastating.

Yes, I’m convinced that He’s a heroic radical for flipping tables in the temple, and I love His denunciations of the religious hypocrites. But I’d be foolish to think that He wouldn’t flip over some of my tables if He showed up today. And that would be embarrassing. And I don’t like to be embarrassed. Don’t you know that I’m respected, that I’m weighty and influential? Everyone knows I’m not hypocritical. In need of a tune-up and some tweaking, always, but never an overhaul. Sure, dust the table, reorganize a few things, and send a tainted coin or two flying, but no need to overturn the whole set-up. Yeah, there are obviously some tables on my right and left that need to be flipped, but this one just needs a couple adjustments. Flip someone else’s tables, thank you.

What about His compassion? Well yes, like you, I’m moved by His radical love for the poor, the handicapped, the outcast, and the marginalized. But just because I feel comfortable reading about His 18-hour days of ministry to the dirtiest members of society doesn’t mean I’d feel comfortable if He got up in my grill about my own missionless heart and merciless priorities. And I can’t pretend that I’m not voluntarily enslaved to man-made traditions and falsely religious principles that protect me from having to exercise mercy and compassion. So He’d have plenty of targets to fire at, and even though I love His compassion, I wouldn’t be fond of Him pointing out my lack of it.

Of course I enjoy the stories about His run-ins with the Pharisees and Sadducees — His masterful set-ups, His clever theological arguments, His pervasive knowledge of the Old Testament. He didn’t fear anyone, and He was never defeated. Like you, I marvel at that. But I don’t know how I’d like my own precious theological notions eviscerated and left lying on the ground quivering and exposed. I’m pretty sure I would be offended to hear Him telling me that I don’t understand much about Him, that there’s so much more to learn, that I need to repent and radically change some of my views, and that that I’m really just like the disciples in my half-baked understanding. I like to learn new things, but I don’t like being wrong, and especially publically, sharply, humiliatingly wrong. And just because I grew up in a pastor’s home and attended a sound Christian college and seminary doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have a good amount of my theology and even more of my opinions sliced and diced by the one who is the very embodiment of the truth.

The whole boy-discussing-theology-in-the-temple is a gripping story, but I’m not sure I would want a Hebrew junior higher joining my staff meeting discussions, especially if “all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Luke 2:47). I like the idea of child prodigies as much as the next guy, but not when they’re competition. And in that vein, I most certainly wouldn’t want the local carpenter’s son returning to town making bold Messianic statements about Himself, no matter how good of a boy He’d been growing up. If we’re honest with ourselves, what He said in Nazareth was just over the top, and we all know it. But somehow we act like we would’ve been the only ones seeing things clearly, the only ones truly on His side, the only ones who would “get it” — like we would’ve been the only ones who would’ve opened our minds, exercised sincere faith, put our pride aside, and embraced God’s Son.

Really? I’m not so sure.

Watching Him intellectually undress the religious elite with simple and sharp arguments is great spiritual entertainment, but fast-forward 2,000 years and cast me as the religious hypocrite and the show’s not so fun. I cheer Him on in the gospels, but what if He showed up on my doorstep challenging my traditions and condemning my lukewarmness and outloving and outobeying anyone I’d ever seen before? What if, unavoidably, His light began exposing my darkness? It’s hard to say that my own Sunday ”Hosanna!” wouldn’t turn into a Friday “Crucify!”

I’m not saying that I don’t love Jesus. I just want to love the right one. And yes, that statement presumes that there’s more than one Jesus, at least in our imaginations and our conceptions and our preferences.

I remember sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee four years ago, watching the sun setting over the Arbel Cliffs on the other side of the lake and hearing the water lap up against the shoreline. I thought about how wonderful it was to be there, and how what I was seeing and learning was radically altering my perspective. But I wasn’t convinced that my tour of Israel would radically alter my life. In fact, I was convinced that in and of itself, it wouldn’t. As my eyes moved around the north shore of the lake, something struck me, something I’ve never forgotten. If most of the people who knew of Jesus, saw His life, observed His miracles, and heard Him teach hardened their hearts and rejected Him, how in the world did it make any sense for me to presume that simply touring the land (and sea) that He walked on would change me? So many who knew of Him hated Him. Why was I so convinced that I would’ve loved Him had I been alive back then, or that I would love Him now if He showed up in person?

Don’t get me wrong. By the electing, redeeming, forgiving, sanctifying grace of God, I do love Jesus. Not like I ought, not like I could, and not like I will, but honestly and sincerely, I do love Him. And I know that He loves me, deeply and eternally. The veil has been torn from top to bottom and the way to God has been opened. Because of Christ I can now enter the presence of God boldly and with confidence.

But I don’t want to be blind. I don’t want to be foolish. I don’t want to be ignorant and arrogant. The fact is, Jesus Christ is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature.” He came to save us, but that doesn’t mean He came to make us comfortable in our sinfulness, or that He came to affirm our personal renderings of Him.

I’m not asking you to question Christ’s love for you or even your general love for Christ. I’m just asking you to join me in considering who Jesus really is, in all His fullness, from all the angles we see in the gospels, and then to ask if we truly love Him for who He really is, in all His fullness, from all the angles we see in the gospels. He has some jagged edges, in case you haven’t noticed, and we don’t tend to like jagged edges, especially when they cut us up.

There was a man whom Jesus loved deeply, and who loved Jesus deeply in return. He was quite possibly Jesus’ best human friend. In his later years, after his friend Jesus had ascended into heaven, they had a brief reunion. “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).

Would I like Jesus if I met Him? No — I would love Him, because of who He is and because of what He’s done for me, and in me. But in my sinfulness, there are a lot of things about Him that I wouldn’t like at all — not because of Him, but because of me. And the sooner I acknowledge and confess that, the better. Better to acknowledge that I don’t like aspects of who Jesus is and to seek forgiveness and transformation than to blindly and ignorantly declare my love for a Jesus tailored to my own preferences and personality.

Yes, I want to love Jesus — just not one of my own making.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anybody thinking Christmas shopping yet?


Okay, okay, I know it is only October...but in case any of you are starting to think through Christmas gifts...I wanted to give you a link to a blogging buddies store. Her family is nearing the home stretch of their second adoption (they already adopted two sisters from India and they are adopting a little boy) but that does not necessarily mean that they are in the home stretch of what they need to raise!

Lori has been making jewelery and selling it online to help with their adoption and what could be better than taking care of some of your Christmas shopping and supporting a godly family in their adoption process all at the same time?!?:)So, if you have a couple of minutes to check out her store, just click on the name: Moss Lake Originals

In other news, we are working our way back up into the land of the living. Fevers are ebbing though the cough is a killer. I didn't think I could handle knowing the kids were watching another movie so we made them sit and do some school work. Not too much fun for any of us, but it was so nice to look at something other than a TV screen!:) Caleb slept most of the day...his surgery must have caught up with him...and Titus went on a coloring marathon - you should see our fridge! Bryan set up "office" in the living room and is still "at work" as I write!

These last few days of not feeling well has made it difficult to "feel" good about anything else, including my walk with Christ. My physical weakness has made me feel spiritually weak and struggling to have the "joy of the Lord be my strength". For lack of a better word, I have been struggling with feeling "blah". So, I was very thankful that a couple of days before I got sick I read this evening meditation by Spurgeon that has been helping me fight those feelings of "blah" with prayers to love my Savior more. Here is the last portion of it (talking about Christ, our Shepherd) that really blessed my heart:

"How gently did he gather me to himself, to his truth, to his blood, to his love, to his church! With what effectual grace did he compel me to come to himself! Since my first conversion, how frequently has he restored me from my wanderings, and once again folded me within the circle of his everlasting arm! The best of all is, that he does it all himself personally, not delegating the task of love, but condescending himself to rescue and preserve his most unworthy servant. How shall I love him enough or serve him worthily? I would fain make his name great unto the ends of the earth, but what can my feebleness do for him? Great Shepherd, add to thy mercies this one other, a heart to love thee more truly as I ought."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If it's not sickness then it's a surgery! :)


I sit here praising the Lord for His amazing grace these last 12 hours. Last night I was still battling a fever and was unsure if I would be able to take Caleb for his surgery at 7 this morning. We had prayed that the Lord would make it clear and we believed it was best that Caleb go in if at all possible. I was just unsure how well I was going to be able to hold up. Bryan was worse than I was, so his taking him was out of the question!

My fever broke before I went to bed and, although it was a restless night, my fever did not return (and still hasn't!). I woke up feeling much better than I expected and with a cough that was manageable. PRAISE THE LORD!!!! Caleb and I left for the surgery center at 6:45 am while the rest of the family (minus Samuel)was getting another dose of cough medicine and Tylenol by doctor dad. I'm pretty sure he self-medicated, too!:)

The surgery went well. Caleb showed no signs of fear as they took him away for surgery. The doctor said that the nurses didn't want to "put him to sleep" because they were having so much fun with him in the surgery room. Only Caleb could continue to be a "ham" a few minutes before a surgery. He woke up really well from the anesthesia and we were on our way home by 10:30. He cried the whole way home and my heart broke to not be able to hold him or comfort him. He did so well considering that he understood so little of what was happening to him.
He will be sore for a couple of days...right now, he is walking around like a woman who just had a baby!:) But, at this rate, what is a funny looking walk in the midst of funny sounding coughs, funny sounding voices as a result of the coughs:), funny looking hair from all the "bed head" we have going on, and funny looking "flushes" from the fevers that don't want to go away!!!

And, in the midst of all this "funny" we are working on remembering that, even on days when we are sick and days when things are not going our way...they are ALL still days that the Lord has made so, let us rejoice and be glad in it!" Psalm 118:24

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Update on the Sick House

As of today, there are officially 6 of us sick. The odd thing is, the two kids that I thought would be most susceptible are showing no signs of being sick at all. Samuel and Caleb are as healthy as can be and I think very much enjoying one of the "perks" that comes with having the rest of the family sick...lots of movies!:)

What is it like being sick alongside your spouse and 4 out of your 6 kids sick, too? It means lots of cough medicine and ibuprofen getting doled out around the clock, it means lots of gatorade and simple, quick meals, it means lots of people laying on the couch at any given time and it means lots of movies!!! The movie part has been a lifesaver for Bryan and I and the kids think it is great! I am hoping this routine does not last too much longer but until fevers start to break, it's just too hard to function!

God's grace IS sufficient and we are hanging in there and thanking the Lord for the health that we DO get to experience almost every day of the year! Thanks so much for your prayers!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

When Pigs Fly

...it's not very fun. Today we spent some time at the doctor's office and it is official, we have entered the world of swine flu. Micah and Bryan both have it and I it looks like Faith and Titus are in the beginning stages with a nasty cough. I could feel my body start to go "downhill" on the way home, so I worked with the girls on some soup and then found my way to the couch. It's not a very pretty sight here at the Pichura House and, from what we were told, we'll be at this for a full week before the contagious aspect is gone...and assuming no one else comes down with it.

Besides being sick, we have been preaching God's sovereignty to ourselves. My dear, precious sister, her husband and my two month old niece were flying up here to visit for a week while we were at the doctors. It is a visit that can't take place now. And, to top it all off, my parents came to visit for a couple of days last week and it looks like my mom is coming down with the same symptoms so they cannot go there either. We have all been in tears several times today...but we have also had the joy of encouraging each other with God's providence and sovereign hand even over this situation that is so contrary to what we would have planned.

The kids (and the rest of us) are getting to live, in a small way, Job 1:21, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Please pray for us this coming week as we seek to glorify God even in the midst of illness. As I sit here, my dear daughter Grace is in the kitchen cleaning up and Samuel joined her for quite a while. I know that there will be lessons learned this week that are for our good...I just pray we don't miss them!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

He is Jehovah Jireh, The Lord Who Provides

As I close out my "adoption week" of posts, I am not sure that I ever took the time to share with you my thoughts on the financial aspect of our adoption. One thing that we were reminded about over and over again is that what God calls you to do, He makes a way for you to do it and HE deserves all the praise and glory. I remember starting this whole process feeling as though it would be foolish or unwise to even begin unless we had a fair amount of resources to "carry the load" ourselves. I think some of it was actually based in fear of what others would think if we started something with absolutely no means to see it through on our own. Fear that they would see us as unwise or foolish or presuming on the Lord. The more we got into this whole adoption process, the more God kept showing both of us that HE OWNS IT ALL!!!!!!

There is no bank account on any continent on all the earth that God does not claim full ownership of. Whether the boy had 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread or 200 fish and 500 loaves of bread it still was not enough to feed over 5,000 people! It still required the mighty hand of Jesus, God Himself, to do what only He could do to satisfy the hungry. And, whether we had only a penny in our bank account or enough to pay for the whole adoption nothing would have been possible without the mighty hand of our Savior! And, because of Him, nothing is IMpossible, either!!!! It is when we are weak that He is strong and His power is perfectly seen, it is when we have little and He turns it into much that HE is seen as great.

George Muller, Gladys Aylward, Adironam Judson and so many more have the most unbelievably beautiful stories as they served the Lord because, so often, they had nothing BUT Christ...and, because of Christ, they had EVERYTHING and His provision in their lives and ministries is so gloriously seen!!!

Please don't think I am going "wacko" on you:)...do not go and sell your house and live on the streets, don't give away all that you have and expect the Lord just to give you more...but DO listen hard to the Lord's calling and obey, even when it seems there is no way. You will see our awesome God do things that take your breath away and work in ways that are beyond your scope of imagination and you will fall deeper in love with Him as you get to know Him more and see more of His attributes and character on display!!! Our $32,000 adoption "bill" has been satisfied and our hearts have been blessed over and over again watching God work!

In closing, I read this quote from the book "Crazy Love" and was reminded that the perspective God has given us this past year through our adoption needs to be the way we continue to see things every day of our life...not just in adoption but in whatever the Lord calls us to do...I don't want this to be said of us:


“I fear there are some [professing] Christians among you to whom Christ will not say “Come Thou Blessed…inherit the kingdom”. Your haughty dwelling rises in the midst of thousands who have scarce a fire to warm themselves at, and have but little clothing to keep out the biting frost; and yet you never darkened their door. You heave a sight, perhaps at a distance, but you do not visit them. Ah! Dear friend! I am concerned for the poor but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in the great day…I fear there are many hearing me who may know now well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money. Oh my friends! Enjoy your money, make the most of it; give none away, enjoy it quickly for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity.”


Robert Murray M'Cheyne Scottish pastor to Edinburgh (who died at 29)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Perspective


Although it's been easy for my heart to feel ripped in two when I think about the pain and sadness that is there even in the midst of something so beautiful and precious as adoption (an ever reminder that we live in a fallen world)...God's sovereignty has sown it back together in such a way that it feels whole again...no guilt, no second guessing, no questioning...just sweet peace in God's plan, blessed assurance that nothing happens without first going through His hands first and precious joy knowing that, despite the pain (and is there really anything that does not have pain attached with it in some form or another?), this was God's beautiful plan before the beginning of time.

What is it like being a mommy to two children who have a mother? What is it like being loved by two little boys who also love another? It's humbling. It reminds me that it is not about ME at all. It reminds me that ALL my kids are really not mine, they are on loan to Bryan and I from the Lord. It brings perspective and helps me keep in mind the eternal over the temporal. What is MOST important about every child (and everyone else, too)is their SOUL...not where they have come from, not what their life consist of right now or what they have lost or gained but WHERE ARE THEY HEADED? To an eternity with Jesus Christ or to an eternity void of Him and full of pain and suffering?

The focus of our life should be the Gospel and, therefore, the heart of adoption must be the Gospel as well. Jesus Himself said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?" Apart from the Gospel we have NOTHING and, because of the Gospel we have EVERYTHING. The beauty of adoption is not that we are giving children a better life it's that we are giving them a Gospel centered life. The better life IS Christ...apart from Him we have no good thing. And, through adoption, we have been given the blessing of sharing these glorious truths with two more little souls...and THAT is truly the only perspective that I need!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our Boy's Ethiopian Mommy


I find myself often wondering about and praying for Samuel and Caleb's dear Ethiopian mommy...we have strong reason to believe that she truly might have a personal relationship with God and I find myself crying out to the Lord on her behalf. That God would save her soul if He has not already. Praying for the peace that passes understanding, that the joy of the Lord would be her strength, that God would be her husband and she would find rest under the shadow of His wings.

Her decision was not an easy one...in fact, I would guess it had to be the hardest decision she has ever made in her life. I can only imagine that it was similar to the way Moses' mom, Jochebed, must have felt as she prepared the basket for Moses and set him out on the water. To keep him meant certain death...to give him up was to give him life. Our boy's Ethiopian mommy was left with much the same situation. They had been in the orphanage for a year and she was faced with a choice that had to be made. Give them up or take them back again. The problem with taking her dear boys back was that she had no place to take them back to...she was without a home and without family to help. Samuel and Caleb would have spent their days, while she worked, at the dump (like other children we saw while we were there) collecting whatever scraps of food they could. And their nights? We can only imagine where they would have slept. It is a life that is lived by many in Ethiopia, but a life that leads most often to disease and death.

To give them up meant life for them...but I can't help but wonder if a little bit of her "died" that day. I cannot imagine doing what she did. My heart aches to even think about it and, as I have said before, were it not for the sovereignty of God I would struggle with guilt. She gave up her sons (and, in honor of her, we gave them the middle names Aaron and Moses) but she also gave us a picture of Someone else Who gave up His Son. I read a post on a web board, written by a 18 year old boy that sums it up so beautifully and I'll leave you with his thoughts today:

"At breakfast this morning my sister asked if she would ever see her mom again? That’s tough to explain to a seven-year-old.

Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia to adopt my sister and brother, Macie and Silas. It was there that I saw one of the most beautiful women alive give away one of the most valuable things she possessed. She gave us her kids.

She came to visit at the hotel so that she could give Macie and Silas her last wishes and her blessings on their lives. She told them that she loved them very, very much, and that she was sad to see them go. She told them that they would have a new family that would love them and care for them. She cried, and Macie cried, and Silas watched. At two years old I don’t think Silas really grasped the gravity of the situation. But then again, who did?

I could never imagine the pain that goes along with freely giving up your own children. Judging by the tears that she was shedding, as she tried to hold them back, I’d say it would hurt a lot. She wiped her tears away, fighting back a sob as Macie cried on her shoulder; she gently smiled at them with her tear-filled eyes and said she loved them. I’d say that this woman knows strength.

As our conversation with their mother came to a close, my parents and I naturally wanted to help this beautiful woman in some way. We were encouraged not to give money because of possible allegations of child trafficking and the like, so we were really at a loss for what to do. We asked her if she would like some food and she agreed that would be nice. So my parents and I, along with Silas, Macie and their mother, walked over to the grocery store right next to our hotel. She held Silas’ and Macie’s hand the whole way. We bought her some loaves of bread, as much as she could carry, and gave her some money for her cab ride back. We stood outside the grocery store and took some final pictures, and headed back towards the hotel.

And what I saw next I will never forget.

My parents and I awkwardly followed behind Macie, Silas and their mother as they still held hands. When they reached the corner of the hotel their mother stopped, knelt down by Macie and Silas and quietly whispered into her children’s ears, “I love you” in her native tongue. She stood up with strength and resolve in her eyes. She grabbed Macie’s hand and put it in my mother’s and said, "This is your new Mom, love her." She grabbed Silas’s hand and put it in my father’s and told him, "This is your new Dad, love him." Then she forced a smile, took her bread and walked away.

My parents and I stood there in complete shock and amazement. The gravity of her love drew us in as she walked away. That, to this day is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

Six months later it hit me, that all we gave her was a loaf of bread. It was really all we could offer, but honestly… a loaf of bread? She’s giving us the most valuable thing she can possibly give, and in exchange we gave her a loaf of bread. That is almost offensive.

But yet through the pain and the grief that she was experiencing, she was still able to show deep gratitude for our weak gift. She said thank you multiple times and was thrilled with our generosity. It’s something that I will never understand.

I once heard a story about a God that gave up his kid, his only kid. He gave him up freely for the world, and it is to this day, the most beautiful thing the world has ever seen. This kid changed the world and he changed my life. His father’s love has engulfed my thoughts and become my desire. I saw the pain of losing a child in the father’s face, and I wanted to give something back. But what do I have to give that can exchange for the loss of a son—a son freely given for all.

All I have to offer is a measly loaf of bread.

I give him my life."

Posted by Ted Kriwiel

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Samuel


Two weeks ago today Samuel started finding his voice. His thoughts started finding their way into words and we were blessed and excited to hear story after story of things that took place while he was in Ethiopia. As I started to ask questions in regards to stories he was telling it became clear that I was going to have to find the right "name" for Samuel and Caleb's birth mom. I knew that they would not understand "birth mom" and so I started calling her their Ethiopian mommy. Without batting an eye, he picked up that name and used it as he talked about his experiences.

I was blown away with how far back he could remember....even sharing one story of his Ethiopian daddy, who died over 2 1/2 years ago. He shared about a pair of black boots he was given but his daddy took them away (maybe to buy food? We'll never know) and he was left with nothing but bare feet to walk on. He didn't remember his Ethiopian daddy being sick, he just said his Ethiopian mommy told him he had died and she was crying a lot. He told Grace that his Ethiopian mommy is beautiful. He shared about a fire that woke them up in the middle of the night...it was right outside of where they were staying...and it scared him. Caleb has a nasty big scar on the back of his thigh which we have learned from Samuel that it was from a hot pot of "doro wat" that was cooking on the floor and Caleb ran by and tripped and fell in it.

He shared what I believe was the trip from Addis to Awassa where they ended up in the orphanage there. He said they walked and walked and walked. Caleb was on their Ethiopian mommy's back and he would cry, cry, cry and their Ethiopian mommy gave a "penny" to a man for some bread...but Samuel was not crying and he did not get any of it. He said they were on the bus for a long time, too. He shared about a cut his Ethiopian mommy got on her foot and that it bled a lot.

He has shared so much about his time in the orphanage. They truly loved being there! They talk about a couple of older boys, with pure love in their eyes, that were clearly in charge of taking care of them and helping them (in fact, those boys and a sister were adopted by a family in Minnesota...still praying we can meet up). They taught him how to make boats out of paper, how to do all sorts of muscle strengthing exercises (Samuel can do an amazing amount of push ups!), how to play soccer, how to rap:),they cut his hair, pulled out one of his teeth and so much more that I can't think of right now! There are stories of movies watched, monkey's caught, discipline received, food eaten, babies loved (Samuel loves babies!), scars received from jumping off his top bunk and more.

In all his talking, there was one question that was not answered, one question that I felt the Lord prompting me to ask, one question that though I knew I needed to ask I feared the pain it might cause.

"Samuel, do you miss your Ethiopian mommy?"

He shook his head yes and I went a little farther..

"Samuel, are you happy or sad to be here?"

He answered happy (which blessed my heart immensely) but then he asked me if his Ethiopian mommy could come here on a plane. My heart broke. I told him that I was so sorry, but she wasn't able to come...she wouldn't be able to join us.

The walls came down and he wept. I held him and I wept, too. Wept for the pain in his heart, wept for the pain I know their Ethiopian mommy must be feeling. I held him and told him that it's okay to be sad, to miss her, to love her. We prayed together for her and for Samuel and the hurt in his heart. I told him that we could talk about her and pray for her anytime Samuel wanted. I dried his eyes and just like that, the moment was over. He was back to giggling and telling more stories and I sat sort of listening but mostly thanking God for that moment. For opening a door that I didn't know how to open and for showing me what best to say and to do in that moment. And just this morning he came to my room and shared with me that he had a dream about his Ethiopian mommy and mommy and daddy (Bryan and I). When he woke up he was sad and when he fell back asleep he couldn't see her anymore. I held him once again, I prayed for him and his Ethiopian mommy and Samuel prayed for her too. His hugs were fierce but his tears were less and he was full of smiles as we left the room! These moments are painfully precious!

(Caleb does not seem to have many memories...although he will often echo what Samuel shares about the orphanage with great excitement! One thing that we have learned since Caleb has started talking more is just exactly what his "nightmares" were/are about. In the beginning he woke up almost every night...now it is just once a week or less...but we assumed it had something to do with being sad about leaving/his new environment, etc... NOPE...it's a big frog that is scaring him in his dreams!:) We tried not to giggle...but that was not what we were expecting to hear!:))

Samuel continues to be very comfortable talking about life, both here and in Ethiopia and we are quick to encourage him and ask questions. I praise the Lord for his openness in sharing and for his ability to grieve and yet walk away with a happy heart. It is a gift from the Lord that I do not take for granted! And there are more days than not that I wonder if it is a gift that has been given to their Ethiopian mommy, too? Does she grieve but walk away with a happy heart? Has the Lord mended her broken heart through His closeness and the peace that passes understanding? More thoughts on that tomorrow...

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit."

Monday, October 12, 2009

IT'S FINAL!!!!!


October 14th, 2008 was the day we officially accepted the referral for Samuael and Kaleab Aziz. We had no idea what the future would hold, no idea exactly what God had in store for us or the timing of it all...but we had the sweet faces of two little boys to gaze at and pray for and dream about.

Today is October 12th, 2009 and we are still praying for them, still dreaming about what life will be like next week, next month, next year and we are still gazing at their sweet faces...but now our gaze is not at a photo on the fridge but face to face as we watch them run, play, giggle, sit on our laps, hold our hands and give us hugs! And today, in the eyes of the United States of America, Samuel Aaron Pichura and Caleb Moses Pichura are in every way our sons! They have even been issued birth certificates stating that we have been their parents from the beginning. From the beginning...and yet, for us, the beginning was just shy of a year ago. But, as I look at Scripture, I am reminded that the beginning was more than a year ago, more than the day they were actually born...it was when God wrote in His book all the days that were ordained for Samuel and Caleb (and you and me!) before there was even one of them (Psalm 139:16). From the human standpoint, we chose Samuel and Caleb to be in our family but Psalms 33:6,9 and 11 tells the story how it really is:

"By the Word of the Lord the Heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts...for He spoke, and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast...The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation."

We are so thankful that God saw fit to grow our family through the beautiful gift of adoption, to knit our family's hearts to two little boys half way around the world and through it all to teach us all a little bit more about OUR own adoption into the family of God. It's been a hard, joyful, painful, exhausting, growing, beautiful climb this past year...and, from where we stand, the view is just glorious!!!

Thank you so much Marcus for being our lawyer and thank you Heidi (and sweet baby Renee), for sharing in our special day with us and helping us with pictures!

The DeVries Dairy Farm


We were so thrilled to be invited out to the DeVries Dairy Farm for a special field trip. I think us moms had more fun learning all the facts while the kids had more fun touching the babies calves and eating ice cream at the end!:)It was a wee bit cold...when we left the house it was only 36 degrees! Samuel has found a way to stay as bundled up as possible and Caleb found a new use for his hat...trying to keep the "stink" of the farm out!:)


Did you know that one female cow can produce between 7 to 18 gallons of milk a day? And she has to have a baby about once a year in order to keep her milk supply! No small task as we saw babies that had just been born a few hours before we got there and they were the same size as my kids are now!




Thank you so much Tom and Heather for the wonderful tour and sweet hospitality!!!
"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.." I Peter 2:2

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's getting cold!!!


This morning we woke up to a nice warm temperature of 22 degrees! As soon as the boys were up, Bryan brought Samuel and Caleb outside so they could "see their breath". They got a pretty big kick out of it...but got even more excited when we pulled out the winter coats and hats and gloves for them to wear to church! I wish I had audio of the giggles and excitement over wearing their "new" clothes (hmmm...I wonder how long it will last?!).


I also had to add this picture to the mix. Gross, huh?:) I have often written about how much Caleb and Samuel sweat...but just in case you didn't believe me, here is what my decorative bed pillow looked like after an hour of Caleb sleeping on it. Clearly, I won't be letting him sleep on my pillows anymore and if you hear of a great sale on pillows, let me know. I have a feeling his will need replacing quite often! :)

Friday, October 9, 2009

A look back...a couple of weeks later! :)


I realize that it has been almost two weeks since we have been home, but I am finally getting to some pictures from our trip to the beach! Stay tuned for next week...I have had so many thoughts and emotions in regards to our beautiful adoption and I am ready to start sharing it with you...Samuel is starting to share more and more about his past, my feelings on being a mommy to children who already have a mother and a few other bits and pieces (I am praying the Lord gives me some good time to write)...and it's especially fitting as we will be kicking off next week (Monday at 1 pm to be exact!)with a trip to the courthouse to finalize our adoption here in the USA!!!!! But, for now...here is a look back on our vacation:

We were so blessed with unusually warm weather the first two days we were in Lincoln City...low 80's...so we hit the beach!!! It was such a delight to see the kids enjoy being IN the ocean for the first time. There were lots of laughs, a few tumbles, a couple sunburns, some sand castles, getting washed away by the tide creeping up and having to quickly relocate all our stuff, a walk down the beach to see a baby seal, shell hunting, trying to drink the salt water (you should see Caleb's face when he shows you what it tasted like!), whiffle ball games, writing in the sand and just fully enjoying the sounds of the ocean, the smell in the air and the the sand in our feet!






Wednesday was a "down day" both in what we planned to do and in what the Lord allowed the weather to do!:) It was at least 15 degrees cooler and cloudy!


Thursday we went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium...what fun!!!! It still blows my mind that 70% of our earth is covered in water...a "world" that we only get glimpses into like we did that day...and God made it ALL for His glory and to bring Him praise. Same with the universe...it's mine boggling just how great our God is and how amazing His creation is...and we only get to see a fraction of it!!!




Friday we made a valiant attempt to go crabbing...long story short...it didn't happen.:) But we still got to enjoy the day...a bit cooler...but who can complain when you are looking at the ocean?!


Saturday was picture day. 180 pictures later and I think we all were wondering just how crazy we really were. I started to giggle about it while we were on the beach...there we were, trying to get this picture perfect photo with 10 kids who could have cared less and let us know that about half way into things. What does not get seen in all the smiles is all the "behind the scenes" talk..."You WILL smile RIGHT NOW"...."LOOK at the camera and smile...I said SMILE"...tee-hee. I am giggling sitting here typing. So, we end up with these precious pictures and, hopefully, over time we forget everything that led up to getting those pictures!:)





We are SO thankful for the time away, thankful for friends who are like family, thankful for the addition of 4 more precious kids since the last time we were together, thankful for the gift of laughter, for our "girl's day out" shopping trip, for the freezer section at Costco that made up our dinners and made us ladies happy campers:), thankful for a rental home that was more reasonable than a hotel, thankful for husbands who "role with the punches" and don't get worked up easily...but, most of all, so very thankful to the Lord. For us as believers, life here on earth is the WORST it is going to get (Heaven awaits!)...and yet God graciously gives us precious moments, days, weeks, months and years as we delight in Him and in the world He has made and get to share in this sweet blessing with our families and brothers and sisters in Christ! Truly it IS amazing grace!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Please tell me they are not all yours."


That is the comment I received today on our walk home (walking quiet nicely and quietly, I might add :)) from visiting with a friend. Many people have asked me, "Are these all yours?", but I think it was the first time I have ever had someone speak in such a way that they were hoping they WERE NOT all mine. I am sure there are many who have thought that in their heads but have just not been willing to verbalize it. This time, someone did...and, I have to be honest, I walked away feeling sick to my stomach but also thankful that none of my children seemed to grasp the reality of what the gal said.

I don't hold it against her...and I don't even judge her for it. It's the culture we live in and that our kids are growing up in, it's what our minds are being fed day in and day out. If it were not for the Word of God and His grace at work in my life, I too, might have echoed those words to a family larger than what I thought made sense...to a family that did not fit the typical mold.

I still sit here feeling a little sick to my stomach, wishing every person who has ever echoed those words or thought them in their heads could spend the day with us and see what a blessing it is to be a parent to all 6 of our kids, to experience to delight of hearing giggles, the precious hugs that I get for no reason at all and the awesome,beautiful responsibility it is to see 12 eyes staring up at you, listening to you and learning from you. It made me think of a couple of lines from a puritan in "The Valley of Vision" prayer book:

"...Sanctify and prosper my domestic devotion,
instruction, discipline, example,
that my house may be a nursery for heaven..."



A nursery for Heaven...those words are precious to my heart! And not only do they ease the sick feeling in my stomach but they place in me a sweet hope and the reminder of the precious calling it is to be a mommy! That God is using me, nothing more than a jar of clay, to share His truth with these 6 little ones and train them up in the way they should go! And, as I reflect on that beautiful calling, my heart cannot help but cry out, "Fill up our nursery even more.Lord!".

Leaving Ripples


Kristin’s post about “footprints” reminded me of a sobering reality. A reality most clearly seen in genealogies. Have you ever wondered why there are genealogies in the
Bible? Take Genesis for example: You have the creation in chapter 1, creation of man in chapter 2, the fall in chapter 3, the first murder in chapter 4, and Noah in chapter 6. All of these accounts are interesting. They may not all be “good news” or “happy stories” yet nevertheless they are very interesting. In the middle of all this exciting stuff is a genealogy in chapter 5, a list of names that lived, had kids and died.

So what is the point ofchapter 5? If we are honest most of us probably skip over this chapter all together when reading through Genesis and those who do read it, many times do so out of some legalistic guilt because, lets face it, it is difficult (and, if we are really honest, a bit boring)reading especially when it is sandwiched by such fascinating texts. But what is the point of this text? Why did God in all His infinite wisdom place such a text (and others) in Scripture that He knew we fleshly humans would struggle to even read let alone ponder and meditate on? My
desire in this post is not to answer that question in it's totality (plus, I do not think I could take on such a task anyway); but I do want to share one observation and thought in regards to genealogies.

Chapter 5 reminds me that we are all like a pebble. A small pebble like so many other pebbles found on the edge of a pond, that are tossed into the still water and then quickly sink into the mud below. In many ways the pebbles journey to the bottom of the pond is like our lives: very brief. James equates life to a “vapor” in
James 4:14. It seems that no sooner does the pebble pierce the surface of the water that it finds it's resting place on the bottom. Genesis 5 reminds us of this; so and so lived, had kids and died. This text is actually a great wake up call because we so often think that what we are doing (jobs, sports, hobbies, social justice, etc.) is what will leave a lasting legacy that people will remember. But ask yourself this: What did your great-grandfather do for a living? What kind of car did he own if he owned one? What was his favorite past time? Did he ever hit a hole in one? Was he ever the hero of the Friday night game? He had dreams and ambitions just like you – what were they? I ask these questions because I can’t answer any of them myself. All I know for sure about my great-grandfather is this: He lived, loved God, had kids (one of which was my grandmother) and died.

Here is my point: We so often think that our sinking to the bottom (the pebble illustration) is what people will remember but the reality is, it isn’t. Most of what we do by way of human accomplishment will be forgotten. But, like ever pebble, it does make ripples on the water's surface. Genesis 5 reminds us that the
“ripples” are not the “what’s” we leave behind but the “who's” we leave behind. When I am on the “bottom” sunk in mud (in other words, dead) will people really care that I liked the Red Sox, that I hit six 3 pointers in two minutes to win the game, rescued 32 victims from drowning, that my only “A” other than gym class in high school was speech class in college? NO!

What Genesis 5 reminds us of is this: the primary ripple we leave, the real legacy for most, is their kids. The mark you make on them is one that will last and live even beyond your own kids to you grandkids and great-grandkids, etc. So, Genesis 5, really does force us to ask this question of ourselves: Who is replacing you? What are they passionate about and who do they live for?

I am not saying that life has no meaning...what I am saying is that what we often feel will last long after we are dead (the great kingdom we built) simply doesn’t!!! I know very little about my great-grandpa (in the scheme of all that I am sure he did)....but I do know this: he loved Christ, had kids, raised them God’s way and, as a result, his legacy has deeply impacted me – she is called my grandmother and through her- my mother.

What kind of ripples are you leaving?