Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's in a name?

"But they will become his slaves so that they may learn the difference between My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries." 2 Chronicles 12:8

Judah had been unfaithful to the Lord and the Lord humbled her. He actually brought them back into servitude to the very nation He had led them out of...Egypt. They would become slaves of the king of Egypt, Shishak. They would be reminded what it was like to have a master that was not the Lord Almighty. They would be reminded that there is nothing greater or more wonderful than being a slave of God!

Slavery has all types of icky connotations for most of us. We see it as anything but good. In fact, most Bible translations have replaced the word "slave" (the correct word in the Greek) for the word "servant" seeking to soften the message. The problem is...we need the true message loud and clear because, for the believer, it's a glorious truth! The truth is, we are slaves whether we like it or not...the question isn't if we are slaves or not the question is, "Who are we slaves of?". We either serve Satan or we serve the Lord. One form of slavery brings bondage to sin, deception, torment and Hell. The other, brings freedom from sin, truth that shines into all the dark places, joy that surpasses all circumstances and gives us an eternity in Heaven!

Yet, we are so often like Judah. We forget the amazing privilege it is to be a slave to the King of Kings. We forget the never ending blessings that come from having God as our Master. We begin to serve what is not our Master...we become a slave to: popularity (what others think of us), food, worldliness, music, television, our own ideas and beliefs, our desires, books, materialism...and so many other things that are quick to become idols in our hearts and the object of our worship and service.

But, we find that there is no lasting joy in those things. And the more we run after them, the greater the hole in our hearts becomes and so the more we cling to that very thing in hopes that it will make us happy. We have thrown away the sweet freedom of serving in the presence of Christ where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. That is what we do every time we sin. Yet God, in his great mercy and grace, uses that sin to remind us of just how great He is...of just how glorious His gospel is...of just how spectacular it is to be a slave of Christ!

He did that for Judah and He does that for us.

"But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY." 1 Peter 2:9-10

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Computers needed!

I am not sure exactly how many people read my little ol' blog...but, I figure I'd send out a little "help" and see if I get any suggestions or thoughts on the subject. The subject at hand is computers...laptops to be exact. I am doing a new curriculum this year with the older 4 kids called "Switched on Schoolhouse" and it's pretty much school on CD-Rom. They really can't share computers and we don't have unlimited space to set up more desktops (we have one)...the kids can use my computer and the one desktop but that still leaves us short 2 computers. We have tried to search for the best bargain that we can...but it still is not cheap! I am someone who likes to make sure every stone has turned before making a decision and, while we have done our best to "do our homework"...I also know that there might be something we missed or some idea we have not thought of...and YOU just might be that person to pass that information along to us!:) So...if you have any ideas or thoughts or have seen some great deal on laptops, we'd LOVE your input!!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We really are alive!

I have to admit, I have been home for a week...but getting back "into the groove" after vacation is hard work!:) My almost 15 year old cousin, Brooklyn, came back with us and then my Aunt Sharon drove up on, in some ways, I still felt a bit on vacation until they left yesterday! Or maybe it still felt a bit like vacation because of all the ways my cousin helped out! I can't begin to tell you what a precious encouragement she was to me! Here is an example: On Monday morning, before they left, I went out to coffee with my aunt. That, in and of itself, was a blessing because Brooklyn watched the kids and it was so nice to get out for a little bit...but she went way beyond that and, with the help of the kids, cleaned the house for me!!!!!
Yes...she is my cousin and, cannot have her!:) Miss you BOTH so much!, rewind a couple of weeks back to vacation! It was truly wonderful! The beach house was beautiful and the view was amazing but, honestly, we could have been anywhere and it still would have been just as much fun simply because we were together! I LOVED having so much time to interact with my favorite family. The more I get to know them, the more I love them. The more I watch them and listen to them, the more I thank God that He saw fit to place me in "The Parker Family" and that He has so graciously grown us with wonderful "in-laws". My sisters-in-law and my brother-in-law are just precious people!!!
There are so many memories from our trip that have found a permanent place in my heart because they are full of the people who hold a piece of my heart! God gave us a special time together full of lots of laughter, learning more about each other, celebrating Samuel and Caleb's one year anniversary home with us, way too much food, great coffee, times of praise and worship...together and individually, conversations of depth and small talk, a campfire on the beach, exercise and a lack of it!,pool games, sweating it out in the sauna, shell collecting and wave jumping, dinner out without the kids (thanks Brooklyn!) and, did I mention laughter?!:)
We also had the opportunity to hire a photographer while we were there. The process, in and of itself...getting 22 people into one place at one time, getting little ones to smile who wanted to do anything BUT smile, praying God would calm the wind like He did in the Bible and hoping at least ONE shot had everyone looking!...created lots of memories all on it's own!:)But I have to say that, what we have seen of the results so far, captured the moments beautifully! (And, it's all the pictures you might be seeing for a while because I can't find the cord that goes from my camera to the computer!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Holiday at the Sea"

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." C S Lewis

Today we leave for a "holiday at the sea"...a family reunion with my parents, my 5 siblings (and their spouses and little ones) and my aunt and cousin. My heart is truly overflowing with thankfulness at God's gracious gift of allowing all 22 of us to be together...something that has not happened in over a year and a half! The sea never sounded better and I can't keep the smile off of my face!!!

But I also couldn't help but think of C. S. Lewis' quote...knowing my own heart and how quick it is to find joy in things other than try to find happiness in making mud pies instead of basking in the all satisfying "sea" of the sufficiency of Christ. I must remember that vacation is not about making much of me but continuing to make much of Christ. It is not about gratifying self, but denying self remembering that Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. In other words, I don't take a vacation from my Heavenly Father! And, in that lies infinite joy!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Some are silver and some are gold...

"Make new friends but keep the old" goes for books as well as friends. "Some are silver and some are gold."

That was the first sentence in an article I read in "World Magazine" and I coulnd't agree more. In fact, this past month, I have been rereading a couple of parenting books that I had not read for a while and it has been pure gold! I have come to realize that just like I love reading through the Bible each year...seeking to "be transformed by the renewing of my mind"...that there are some wonderful books that should be on my list of "read this every year" books!

My all time favorite parenting book (for any age kid) is "Everday Talk" by John Younts. And, as I have spent the past week rereading it...I am blown away with how much I have forgotten, how much I have ceased to put into practice and how much I can benefit from reading this book each year! Each chapter is full of God's truth, godly council and practical's a few quotes to whet you appetite and add this book to your summer reading list too, :):

"Your instruction of God's Word should be given as joyfully and carefully as if you were presenting your kids with the finest jewlery to wear. Your teaching, if heeded, will make them attractive, just as fine jewlery would. Don't just throw God's Word at them. Present it with love and care."

"Does your everday talk center upon grace or performance? Are you able to delight in your children simply because God gave them to you and you love them? Or must your children behave in a way that pleases you before you can delight in them?"

"We tend to have active mouths, but not active ears." (in regards to communicating with our kids)

"Remember, the basic issue in obedience is willing submission. Unwilling, grudging compliance is not godly obedience. Cooperation based on negotiation and mutual advantage is also not obedience. Biblical obedience is willing submission to authority."

"Pleasant words promote instruction."

"Parents, when you give into anger, resentment or self-pity at your children's bad behaviour, you make yourself at the center of the problem. You are loving yourself first and most....they need to see that their first problem is with God, and only secondarily with you."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Only proximately bad

My cousin got into a car accident two days ago. He is fine but his car is not...and for a guy who just graduated from high school and invested a good chunk of his hard earned money into that's not just a "bummer"'s heartwrenching! My heart ached for him and was full of prayers that God would be seen as great in the midst of the heartache and that He would be glorified in the pain.

I read a quote by R.C Sproul that reminded me not only of my cousin's situation but of so many other situations that the Lord has taken others through and my own family through:

"God, in his providence, has the power and the will to work all things together for good for his people. This does not mean that everything that happens to us is, in itself, good. Really bad things do happen to us. But they are only proximately bad; they are never ultimately bad. That is, they are bad only in the short (proximate) term, never in the long term. Because of the triumph of God's goodness in all things, he is able to bring good for us out of the bad. He turns our tragedies into supreme blessings."

That quote was also in the forefront of my thoughts and meditations when I read a very familiar account in John 11. You know the one...Lazarus was sick...he was dying...and this is what John 11:5-6:

"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was."

Ouch! The One who could heal, the One who could make well with just a few words from His mouth, the One who could take away hurt and pain and bring laughter and joy in it's place, the One who could turn mourning into dancing...seemingly did nothing. In fact, He stayed right where He was. He allowed pain and death, sorrow and tears to fill the lives of those He loved so dearly. It didn't make sense. It hurt so much...Martha and Mary knew that Jesus could have saved Lazarus...but He didn't...and the pain was intense.

That was the proximate. That was what earthly eyes saw and felt but that was not the end of the story. It was only the opening chapter. God's goodness triumphs in all things...even the painful things. Lazarus died, in the words of Jesus, "for the glory of God, so that the Son of God might be glorified by it"(vs 4). Lazarus died so that that he could be risen from the the watching world could see that there is NOTHING out of God's control, nothing in which He does not claim the victory...not even death!

My cousin Matt saw God's supreme blessing today out of the midst of pain...he saw God provide in ways that were beyond what we ever could have prayed for. He saw the greatness of God in a way he might not have otherwise...and so did we! And, in that, God is glorfied and He is made much of!

Love you, Matt!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vacation means time on the road.... maybe not all of you will be traveling very far this summer...but I am guessing that most of you, like me, will have a bit of extra time on your hands...time that can be wasted or time that can be redeemed! For me, time traveling in the car can often fall into the "wasted" category. I have to be intentional...about truly listening to the kids and not letting my mind wander as the miles go by, about downloading messages (thanks Bryan) to listen to (and, you'd be suprised at how much your kids are really listening, too!)...and there is nothing like bellowing out praise songs to Jesus to make the time fly and your heart sing!:)

By the grace of God, our trip to my parents was not wasted but was sweet, refreshing and encouraging! Yep...6 kids in the car for almost six hours...and it REALLY was a blessing! I thought I would share a few of the things we listened to that would be WELL worth your time and attention...either in the car or at home!

We listened to the new "Walking with the Wise" CD at least 3 times! It's fantastic and my kids already have their "favorites"! We also listened to 1 episode of the Jonathan Parks Radio Drama on CD. I forgot how much fun it is to listen to radio drama (it's kind of like Odyssey!). And my most favorite hour of the trip (actually it was more like 2 hours because my kids seemed to keep having "urgent" things to tell me :)) was listening to a message by CJ Mahaney that he preached at the "Together for the Gospel" conference. The title of the message is "Ordinary Pastors" but TRUST ME you could fill in ordinary MOTHER, ordinary SCHOOL TEACHER, ordinary INTERN, ordinary...okay, you get my point! It was absolutely fantastic. I found myself laughing out loud many well as whispering "Amen, Amen" with each new point. I was convicted, exhorted, blessed and strengthened in my conviction to keep being an "ordinary mother" for the glory of God! You can download the message HERE.

And, speaking of "ordinary mothers" I just read a great short article titled, "For the Young Mother: Ministry, Guilt and Seasons of Life" by Jani Ortlund (who wrote "Fearlessly Feminine"...another book I would highly recommend!). Anyway, grab a cup of lemonade and take a moment to refocus on the joys of motherhood! Or print it off and take it with you to read on your road trip...if your husband is driving, that is!:)

Happy Traveling!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

As thoughts turn toward vacation....

It's finally feeling a bit like summer up here in Surrey, British Columbia...and I am getting all the more excited about our summer vacation!

So, as I opened my "365 Days with Spurgeon" book...I was thankful for the timely reminder. And, since I am figuring many of you have plans for holidays (yep, that's the Canadian word for vacation!:)), vacations, weekends away and other forms of entertainment and relaxation...I thought you might be encouraged by Spurgeons wise words like I was. It was based on Zechariah 14:20 and is just a small part of a great big sermon (#399):

Even pleasure and recreation shall become “Holiness to the Lord.” When you are travelling in Alpine regions, you will be amused by the ringing of the little bells upon the horses. You are there for rest, to recruit the body, but let that rest be taken in the spirit of holiness. I fear that many leave their religion behind them when they go to the seaside, or to continental countries. It ought not to be so; in our pleasures as well as in everything else, on the very bells of the horses there should be, “Holiness to the Lord.” A Christian man needs recreation as well as another man; the bow must be unstrung, for the soul always bent to work shall soon lose the energy to labour. There must be times for breathing the fresh country air, and looking upon the meadows and the fields. I wish such days came more often for the poor toiling population of this huge labyrinth of bricks; oh that you could more often see the laughing face of the verdant earth, and the smokeless heavens! But note this, let us as Christian men see to it that we carry the spirit of this text with us wherever we go; so that the bells of the horses are, “Holiness to the Lord,” and our very recreations are done as sacredly and as much in the sight of God as our sacraments and our solemn feast days. Does recreation mean sin? Then, indeed, you have nothing to do with it. Does pleasure mean iniquity? Deny, deny yourselves. But there are pleasures which mean no such thing. As you traverse Alpine regions, let your thoughts stand on the mountain tops and talk with God, or if you walk the fair lanes of England, let the cool retreat become an oratory for your soul. Why everything that your eye looks upon, from the king cup flower in the meadow to the cedar upon the mountain may make you praise God.

May 2 Corinthians 5:9 be the cry of our heart this summer season:

"So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him."

Monday, July 5, 2010

When death comes....

I added a new link under "Favorite Blogs" called Joshua Harris. It's his blog and the most recent posts deal with the impending death of his mom and her death yesterday. As I read, I couldn't help but cry...tears of heartache for them and the loss of their precious mom...but I also was so encouraged in the hope that there is in the death of a believer. I am so thankful for their God-glorifying examples in the midst of such pain and I pray that, when it is my turn to walk that road, I will be a testimony to those around that God truly is enough and that He gives a living hope that cannot be shaken.

Wander over there for a few minutes and take a couple extra minutes to listen to one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard on death...."The Long Night" by Matthew Smith.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Month End Review

Today is July 4th...not only the day of the USA's birthday (which, by the way, is NOT celebrated in Canada...go figure!:)...we got off for Canada Day on July 1st though!) but it is also one month since Titus celebrated his 6th birthday and I figured it was about time I documented his special day and the days following!

Titus turned 6 on June 4th and we celebrated with Papa, Grandma and Uncle Andrew. He was so excited about his cinnamon roll cake (no...we did not let him eat the whole thing) and even more excited about his trip to Olive Garden for lunch with just Papa, Uncle Andrew and Daddy! He, too, wanted a hockey cake and I was running out of ideas! Ding-dongs came to the rescue and made the perfect "Hockey Puck Cupcakes"!!!

You continue to light up the room and my life with your smiles, contagious giggles and the funny things you say on almost a daily basis! Life is not dull with you and you bring so much laughter into our home! I am continually blown away with your determination and how you are not easily swayed from doing what you want to do...even if it is the opposite of what all your other siblings want to do. You may be one of the youngest, but God has certainly given you the character qualities of a leader. I pray that God would mold you and make you into a servant leader who leads others to the foot of the cross.
I also wouldn't be surprised if you end up being a lawyer. Your creativity when it comes to solving problems or trying to get what you want is second to none in our house...and, I'll be honest, I am a little concerned as to what that is going to look like in school this coming year...because 2 +2 will always equal 4 no matter what you might say to the contrary!:)
Your love for all things "costume" continues to give dad and I many shared smiles. Your imagination is fantastic...but it seems to be closely linked to having a costume to go with it! The closet is full of pilot gear, fire fighter apparel, police accessories, catcher's wear, hockey equipment and, your latest, a full set of plastic armor so that you can, in your own words, "really be like Narnia".

Dear Titus, you have such a winsome personality...may the Lord use you to "win" others into His family...but, above all, may you use your gifts, your leadership, your sense of adventure, your imagination and your determination to passionately pursue a love relationship with Jesus above all and may He do great things in and through you as you humbly submit your will to His perfect one!

Love you, my dear tater-tot!

Birthday number two came the very next day! My dad celebrated his...well, lets just say it was more than his sixth :)...birthday with us! It was so wonderful to have my parents with us...and so hard to believe that less than two months before that my dad was laying on a hospital bed. Unfortunately, he over-did it playing mini-golf a couple of days before his birthday so he wasn't feeling quite as well as he did the first day he came to visit us...but we had a great time celebrating with a good part of the gang..including my brothers Paul, Andrew and David and my sister-in-law, Michelle. My dad has been doing an AMAZING job counting every calorie, fat gram, carb...and who knows what else...that he eats, so it was a very special treat for him to enjoy his Boston Cream Pie on his birthday! I sit here, still, rejoicing that God saw fit to give my dad another birthday and that we got to share that day together!

Little Caleb celebrated his very first birthday in the Pichura home on June 10th! My youngest is officially 5 years old! Boy...I remember when I had 4 little ones all UNDER the age of 5 and now our youngest is truly is a vapor! Caleb enjoyed a breakfast donut with Daddy and came home to a decorated house! He wore his birthday hat with giggles and really liked his "monkey cake" (although I must admit it looked more like a cross between a bear and a giraffe! Does the effort count for anything?!:)). He asked for "berbere" for dinner (an Ethiopian spice) and I did the best I could by making homemade spaghetti sauce with berbere in it. He was a little disappointed that there was no injera (flat "bread")but was quick to say "that's okay, mom"!

Dear Caleb,
As we celebrate your first birthday in the Pichura Family it's hard for me to believe that you have been here with us for almost a year. You have grown so much this past year, my little bean! Gone is much of the complaining and whining that used to be so very much a part of you...and, in it's place, the fruit of "self control" and "joy" are growing! You learned the little phrase "all the way, right away, with a happy heart" your first month home and have added so many new phrases to it ever since! One of my favorites is when you say, "thanks for encouraging me" when you are instructed!

Caleb, YOU encourage my heart so many times by your thoughtful words. You always seem to notice any "changes" in mommy and encourage me about them. "Mom, I like your toes". "Mom, that is a pretty shirt". "Mom, I like your hair". You noticed when no one else did and you "steal" a little bit more of my heart each time! I love the way your Ethiopian "accent" still comes through in different words that you say and no one else is quite as adorable talking about the names of hockey players as you are! And, I LOVE your singing! If I want to know where you are I usually just have to listen for singing! God has gifted you with a BEAUTIFUL voice...and I can't wait to see how He will use it to glorify Himself! You have filled our home with much sweet music...keep singing to Jesus and about Jesus!

We are still learning about you...what you like and don't like...what makes you happy and what makes you sad. We are still learning to love and you are still learning to believe that we really do love you with all our hearts. Most of all, though, I pray that you believe with all of your heart the deep love that God has for you...a love that sent Jesus to die in your place to pay the price of your sin. Caleb, your middle name is Moses' and I pray that you follow in both Caleb and Mose's they courageously followed the Lord though everything seemed against them!

I love you, my little bean, and thank God for you each and every one of your 5 years of life!


And...just so you can see how adorable my littlest son is "O, Canada" (on the 4th of July!:)) video