Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's been 9 years....

...since Grace was born! Happy Birthday sweet girl!!!!
We truly had a delightful day! Way too much "junk food"...but that made it all the more fun!:) We started out the morning with donuts and Grace opened a couple of her presents. She LOVES horses and was just "tickled pink" with all the "horse stuff" she got from her grandparents and family....a horse Bible, a horse shirt, a horse puzzle...and, we ended the night with an absolutely precious horse movie, "Moondance Alexander".

She had a little birthday dessert time with friends this afternoon...surprise cupcakes (a favorite of mine growing up) and pudding in tea cups. She wanted Mexican Corn Chowder and Cornbread for dinner and we finished up the dinner with her opening the rest of her gifts and blowing out her candles...though everyone was too stuffed for cake!:)

As she was going to bed, Grace told me that it had been a great day, full of special surprises and the best gifts! She was so appreciative and so blessed...which blessed my heart, of course!


I still remember how small you were when you were born. Only 6 lbs. 3 oz. and you dropped below 6 pounds within those first few days! Feeding you was not the easiest but, slowly but surely, you gained weight! I still can picture you in those adorable Christmas clothes your Nanny got for you!

You were loved by your brother from the moment you came home...he even "lent" you his blankie and teddy bear...he had put them right next to you while you slept. You got thrush when you were a couple weeks old, so purple was the color you wore on your face for a week or so! At about 3 weeks you made your first plane trip to go to NY and it was that very week that your colic kicked in and lasted till you were about 4 months old! We were so thankful when you decided to stop crying all the time!:)

My dear girl...still so petite and still so adorable in whatever outfit you choose to put on for the day...you are loved so much by all of us! Your relationship with Faith puts a smile on my face (and sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out!) and your creativity has created hours of "play" for your younger siblings! Your creative mind comes from Daddy...but, ultimately, from the Lord...and I pray that you continue to use the gifts He has given you to display the glory of God, as God's creation daily does to a watching world!

You have a heart for babies...and I can't wait to see how the Lord uses you to minister to little ones (and their moms)! And, Lord willing, I look forward to the day that God gives you your own little ones to raise for His glory. Right now, though, my prayer, Gracie-girl, is that you would fall so deeply in love with Jesus that no other love would compare, that no other desire would rule your heart! As I pray for you, I pray for wisdom for your dad and I. That we would gently lead you with chords of love (as the Lord does with us), that we handle His Word before you as the precious jewel that it is, that we would be wise in the "hedges of protection" that we set up around your heart and life, and that we would, above all, model before you lives that are passionate and zealous for the Lord!

You are a gift from God, Grace, and I am so thankful that the Lord saw fit to grow you in my womb and to continue to grow you in our family! Happy Birthday!


Grace's full name is Grace Abigail Pichura...so that makes her initials GAP!:) We are trying to make a tradition of getting her one thing from "The Gap Store" each year in honor of just that!:)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An Adoption Update

I was asked a couple of months ago if I could do an update on the boys and how things are going...better late than never!:) I still look at the picture above (taken the first day they were taken to the orphanage) and thank the Lord for the work He has done in their lives and in our lives as a family. Hang in there, this is a long one!

Actually, it was the conversations today that reminded me about the fact that we have come so far in the last 16 months but that the "grafting in" still takes time!

Back to that conversation in a minute...I'll give you a quick run through for now. (Some of what I share may seem too "open" and "honest" but I know there are some of you reading this who have just adopted and I am praying that this honesty would encourage you and help as you walk this amazing road!)

Caleb has officially started Kindergarten. I was planning to hold him back till he was 6, but our teacher strongly encouraged us to "go for it" and I am so glad that she did! He is doing amazing at his schoolwork! He has already learned how to tell time (!) and is reading short sentences. He is beyond where some of my other kids were at the exact same age. I truly am blown away! I have also learned, though, that he is a bit of a perfectionist...and if he isn't sure that he is doing it right or is confused, he is quick to tears and just wants to give up! Even in that department...of having self-control of his emotions...he has come so far compared to the first couple of weeks of school.

Speaking of emotions and self control...I wish that all those who saw and knew Caleb when he first came home could see him now. He has blossomed from a whiny, complaining, "grumpy" kid to a little boy full of smiles and laughter. I think a lot of that has come from just knowing "security". He has learned his boundaries and the freedom that comes within those boundaries and the consequences that come from stepping outside of them and he is much more confident. One of the very first phrases (outside of "Jesus loves you" and "Jesus died on the cross for your sins") that we taught him when he came home from Ethiopia was how he should obey: "All the way, right away, and with a happy heart". His life was not characterized by those things for the first couple of months...but boy, have we seen a work done in his heart!!! To God be the glory!

We also continue to glorify the Lord for the relationship that Titus and Caleb have. That first month or so that Caleb was home, Titus wanted little to do with him. Titus became like a different person...quieter, a bit withdrawn...just not his cheerful self. Our hearts broke to see how difficult it was for Titus as he learned the new role of "big brother" and learned to share all that had once been "just his".

Titus has learned his new role well...maybe a bit too well! In fact, he can be one bossy bigger brother! Poor Caleb has had to learn what his "way of escape" is when Titus becomes rude and demanding (and, of course, Titus has learned what happens when he is rude and demanding!). As a whole, though, they LOVE each other! Our house is filled with the laughter of those two! In fact, as I write both boys have their shirts off, winter gloves on, and they are pretending to "box"! I find myself smiling just listening to them laugh!

Caleb notices details...he will be the first one to comment when I paint my toenails..."Mom, your toes are so pretty"...or when I wear a new top or do something different with my hair. He still loves to color and loves to play with cars! And, oh, can that boy sing! He loves music!

On a side note...we still continue to battle, with both of the kids (and more typically Samuel), the value of "stuff". Things are still a bit too easily broken or discarded with little regard to the cost of it or the importance of being a good steward of what they have. We see this with all of our kids, but it continues to be an issue that we have to address especially with Samuel. I am not going to analyze it beyond that.:)

Samuel is doing great! He has completely caught up in his schooling and so he, Grace, and Faith are all in 3rd grade together. SOS (Switched on Schoolhouse) has definitely been a huge challenge for him (there is a lot of reading) and, in the beginning, I was a bit concerned if it was going to work for him. I have no concerns anymore! Comprehension is still weak...but he has a rule that he has to ask me if he doesn't know what a word means (and I have a rule that I have to respond graciously and kindly no matter how many times he asks me!:)).

He started a free hockey program once a week (with Micah) in September and he has just "taken off"...literally. He went from barely being able to stay up to skating backwards! He loves hockey and has got quite the aggressive streak for how much his smile may say otherwise! He has also just about finished his first Boxcar Children book and he is so excited at his accomplishment! This year he is the angel Gabriel in the Christmas program and has been working hard on his lines.

He has a sensitivity to the things of the Lord and truly likes reading his Bible. Today I found him writing down a Bible verse that he had read on our white board: "Lord I give myself to you, my God I trust in You." Psalm 25:1-2. Boy, did that bless my heart.

The road with Samuel has been a bit harder than for Caleb. Habits were formed in him and given time to grow longer than they were in Caleb...he is 3 years older. One of those habits is lying. It's a sin and we deal with it as such...but it is almost like it has been so woven into the fabric of his life, so woven into his daily speech that it's second nature...he does it without even thinking twice about it. We continue to pray that God would give him a heart that loves the truth, a heart that follows Jesus Who is the way, the truth, and the life...we continue to discipline and Biblically encourage him about what to put off and what to put on...but, in the end, we can only be faithful as we wait for the Lord to produce the fruit of truthfulness in his life.

There is so much that our dear son remembers about Ethiopia. So much that was a part of his life just 17 months ago. Though there have been so many changes...there is still much that will take time. Just today I was talking to Samuel and Caleb about the fact that they saw all the Harry Potter movies in Ethiopia (Go figure!). Caleb was so scared by them he had nightmares for the first couple of months he was home with us (I guess there was a scary big "frog") and he told me, even today, that he doesn't want to go back to Ethiopia because he doesn't want to see those "bad" movies!:) We talked today about some of the attitudes of the older kids in the orphanage with them and how they should look at those situations in light of Scripture. It was neat to see the discernment that is growing in their little hearts...but it still does not erase the memories they have....both good and bad.

It does not erase all the nights they slept wherever they could find a place or the hours Samuel walked without shoes on his feet. It does not erase the deep love he has for his "Ethiopia mommy" and the sacrifices she made or the sadness he has when he talks about his "Ethiopia dad" taking his only pair of shoes (we assume, to buy food). The mind holds tightly to certain memories...for better or for worse.

One memory that I pray will never cause him pain or fear again was one he shared today with me. He told me that one of his friends at the orphanage said that parents can send their kids back to Ethiopia if they don't want them. I was quick to let Samuel know that that was NOT true...but then I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to dig a little deeper. I sat down on the floor next to him and looked him in the eyes and said, "Samuel, are you ever afraid that daddy and mommy might send you back to Ethiopia?" His eyes filled with tears and he whispered "Yes...when I keep disobeying I lay in bed at night and I am afraid that you might send me back."

I couldn't believe it. All this time living with us, all this time being one of our children in every way, all this time of telling him how much we love him and we are so glad God put him in our family...planned that he would be a "Pichura" from before the world was created...and all this time, our sweet son has been believing that we could send him back to Ethiopia if we wanted to. Wow. What a sweet blessing it was to hug and hold my son and tell him that we would never send him back. That though he did not grow in my belly, he grew in mommy and daddy's hearts and he would be our son forever. This is his home for always...for Christmas and Thanksgivings, for first girlfriends and grandbabies...we are his and he is ours!

That conversation reminded me that while we have come so far by the grace of God, we still have a ways to go. It takes time. And that's okay. It's so very much like being adopted into God's family. The moment we are saved we become sons and daughters...in fact, we were written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world. We are His forever! But it's also a process...a process of learning more about our Heavenly Father, a process of learning to trust Him, learning to obey Him, learning to believe every word He says and live by faith in that belief. Every day, we should make it our aim to grow more and more in the grace and knowledge of God...every day we should make it our aim to know more and more of all that it means to be a son and daughter of the King of Kings!

It takes time...and we know that God makes all things beautiful in His time!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Seeds Family Worship

Seeds music is some of our most favorite music here in the Pichura Home. I recommended it at the Parenting Seminar and thought I would pass on a special they are running. They are offering 30% off their CD's today through next Monday. Check out Challies blog for more information and other great deals!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving?

As you know, Thanksgiving was the beginning of last month here in Canada...and, when I woke up this morning, you could have convinced me it was Christmas before I would have thought it was Thanksgiving just south of the border! We woke up to about 4 inches of snow and it has snowed the most beautiful, little snowflakes most of the day!
I won't tell you how long it took to get all of our snow gear on (!) but I will tell you we had so much fun once we finally got outside! The snow wasn't really the packing type so our attempts to make a snowman turned into a snow lady with a flowing "skirt".:)

Bryan shoveled off our porch and the kids had so much fun standing under it and getting plastered with snow (actually, Caleb was not a part of the "festivities"...he truly hates being cold!:)).

We even got a game of football going and Mommy, Samuel, Faith, and Caleb ("The Pichura Polar Bears") won!:) Though we may not be ending the day with turkey and stuffing...we have had a great time together as a family and are so thankful for God's gift of snow!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

To Vindicate or Not to Vindicate

I got an amazing quote from a precious sister in Christ today and the wheels in my mind started spinning and that means my fingers started itching to write (er, type) it down. Here is part of the quote:

"St Augustine prayed, "O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself." Such a need for constant vindication destroys our soul's faith in God. Don't say, "I must explain myself," or, "I must get people to understand." Our Lord never explained anything - He left the misunderstandings or misconceptions of others to correct themselves."
Oswald Chambers.

I pulled out my handy dictionary again and looked up a couple words:

Lust - and inordinate craving or overwhelming desire

- to clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting proof; to justify or prove the worth of.

I never really thought of vindication being a bad thing until reading that quote. Of course, it's not so much the vindication as it is the lust of it. Ugh. I hate the word lust. It makes whatever is attached to it seem so dirty. But, I think that is exactly the point Augustine was trying to make. When we have an overwhelming desire to vindicate ourselves it is dirty...it is sin. It is pride. It is me-centered.

Quickly to follow, in my mind, are my excuses: But I am not supposed to be a stumbling block to others...so I need to explain myself. I am to make the gospel look attractive and people might not understand why I did what I did and so I just need to clear my name so God looks great in my life. That incident might have left doubt or questions in the mind of someone else...I need to clear their suspicions by sharing the truth of the issue...that will justify me in their eyes.

Of course there is Biblical truth to what I said about wanting to adorn the Gospel (Titus 2) and that we are to live in such a way as to not intentionally cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble (I Cor. 8). Others should look at our lives, see the good work God is doing, and even ask us about the hope that we have (I Peter 3). We are called to walk in the truth.

BUT, as I think through my excuses...often, at the heart of them, isn't a desire to adorn the Gospel...it's a desire to look good to others. My vindicating words spring from sinfully wanting to people-please instead of please the Lord most of all. It removes faith and trust in God...that He will work out all things for good (Romans 8:28) and that, ultimately, HE is the one Who justifies (Romans 8:33).

There is a time to speak up and a time to be silent...even when they are words of vindication!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Living in Harmony

I had the sweet blessing today of spending a few hours of fellowship with the 3 other pastor's wives in our church. We have never been in a church before with this much "staff" so this is such a neat, new blessing of serving alongside a plurality of pastor's wives. Our husbands have each been called to different ministries within the body of Christ and, as their helpers, we have the privilege of supporting them in their roles. As pastors wives, each of our ministries within the church look different but are helping to build up the body of Christ! Though our roles are different and we are all in different seasons and stages of life...there is a sweet love for each other and a precious pursuit of unity! I am so very thankful for the gift of these ladies...in my own life and in our church.

One of the passages we looked at today was Romans 15:5-6:

"May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Harmony means "agreement or accord, as of feeling or opinion. It also means a pleasing combination of parts or elements; or combination and progression of chords in musical structure." Isn't that a beautiful picture of what the family of God should look like in the local church?! That we would be in agreement...that we would make up a pleasing combination of parts like the sound of voices singing in beautiful harmony.

One of my favorite parts in a musical arrangement is when the choir or group of people singing break into acappella. There are distinctly different parts but they all blend together into one beautiful voice of music.

So it is with the church family...there are many different parts but one body (I Cor. 12)...many different "voices" that blend together to make one beautiful, harmonious voice lifted to exalt and magnify the name of Jesus!

But that harmonious voice doesn't just happen! It requires a lot of hard work and Holy Spirit fruit-living! We looked at Colossians 3, too. Boy, is it full of wonderful wisdom...we are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience...bearing with one another and forgiving each other. We're to be marked by love, peace, and thankfulness. And we are to be filled with God's Word so that it comes out in our interactions with each other. Verse 17 sums it up, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

May we all, wherever the Lord has placed us, "Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praise." Psalm 98:4

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow!

Yep...that's right! We spent late Friday night watching the snow fall and woke up to about 3 inches of snow Saturday morning!!! On any other given day, I would have welcomed the snow with open arms and a cup full of cocoa...but this time around, I started praying that it would stop! We had a parenting seminar at our church (for moms) on Saturday and, after all the preparation that went into it, I was praying the Lord would allow the roads to stay clear so the ladies would come out! It was a blessing to wake up to fairly clear roads and 25-30 ladies with smiles on their faces!:) So...the kiddos and hubbies got to play in the snow and us mommies (and grandmas!) were able to be encouraged and blessed with some great sessions on parenting via DVD with Ginger Plowman!

Here are a few highlight quotes from our day together:

"You reap what you sow, you reap later than you sow, and you reap more than you sow."

"Communication is based not only on the ability to talk, but also on the ability to listen. You need to understand your child...not just have your child understand you."

"Pull out what is in their (your child's) heart, work through how to have them replace the sin with righteousness and then have them go back and put into practice what they have learned."

"Always parent with this question in mind: How will this affect their souls?"

"We need to view our children's sin as precious opportunities to train them in righteousness (God's way)."

"The greatest need our children have is to be saved."

"We are called to be like a John the Baptist" in our kids lives..to prepare the way of the Lord in their hearts and lives."

"Obedience should be all the way, right away, and with a joyful heart."

"Children will rise (or fall) to the standards you (the parent) set up for them."

"Overlooking sinful foolishness sends the message to our kids that God and His holiness is not that big of a deal."

Great verses to encourage moms (and dads!)in parenting:

Galatians 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophies which depend on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

Hebrews 12:11 "No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

Isaiah 40:11 "He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young."

Luke 6:40 "When the student is fully trained he will be like his teacher."

2 Timothy 3:14-17 "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

As the days go by...

The last couple of weekends we have had the sweet blessing of family coming to visit. Two weeks ago my brother and his wife, David and Michelle, came up for a whirlwind 24 hours. We went swimming at an amazing pool complex (and, get this...only $9 for our whole family for over 8 hours of swimming if we wanted!) and then on to watch Micah and Samuel play hockey. It was a crazy, wonderful day!
This past weekend we were so excited to have my mom and dad (Papa and Grandma) come to visit. I am so sad that I only took one picture the whole time they were here (another horse project!)...but we had such a wonderful RELAXING time with them! We didn't leave the house once and it was a much needed break!
They left Saturday morning and by Saturday afternoon the Christmas music was blaring and the decorations were being unpacked! Call me nuts...but I am taking advantage of an early Canadian Thanksgiving!:) I think my husband was a wee bit embarrassed but the kids and I had fun (and he was a good sport lugging all the bins and the trees up the stairs!).
In other news...Titus' creativity continues to give us lots of laughs! This week, he decided that he wanted to be a scuba diver and catch Great White Sharks...I'll let the pictures speak for themselves! So thankful for the days the Lord has made and that I have the privilege of spending them with an amazing husband, 6 crazy kids, and a church family that is becoming more dear with each passing month!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Numbering my days...

As I look back on my last week or two of posts there are a few things that stand out:

-the lack of pictures

-the promise to share some good "habits"

-a desire to dive deeper into what it means to "know God" (with the help of J I Packer)

-a lack of posts

Of course, the first three are summed up in the last point and the last point is summed up in a lack of time, not desire. And therein lies the dilemma that I have been wrestling with. Here is the dilemma: There are lots of good things to do...even great things to do...and not enough time for little ol' me to do them all! The wrestling...well, that comes from wanting to "do it all", realizing I can't, and then trying to figure out what exactly I SHOULD do!

I was talking to Bryan about it last week and summed up my sinful (yes, please note, I said sinful) thoughts this way: I am either feeling guilty about what I didn't do or what I did do that I wish I hadn't done OR I am feeling overwhelmed with all that still needs to be done.

Thoughts like that are completely void of the gospel and, therefore, completely sinful but they are the very thoughts I find myself battling and seeking to take captive.

There is so much to be done and that can be done! There is so much that we have the capability of doing in the day and age we live in. Reading an endless number of good blogs, communicating via the internet with people we knew 20 years ago and haven't seen in almost that long, listening to sermons and messages from great godly people, staying in touch with family and friends with just a couple clicks of a keyboard or a few buttons on a phone, learning the latest trends in healthy eating and exercise as soon as the experimental results are in, get-togethers, sweet fellowship, emails of encouragement, notes of care and love, church events and ministry opportunities, missions projects, music lessons, Bible Studies...shall I go on? Notice how all of those things are good things, great things, and/or many are even biblical commands!!!! What do we say yes to and no to? How do we discern between doing one great thing over another great thing? How do we not feel guilty over what we have or have not done? How do we joyfully rest in knowing we are following the will of God for our lives?

My hearts cries out with Moses, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). I can't even begin to imagine all the "good" things he could have been doing. Leading an entire nation would create endless opportunities for doing good things. How did he do it?

Hebrews 3 says that he was "faithful in all God's house". God's word was his very life (Deut. 32:47). He spoke to God "face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Exodus 33:11). Moses KNEW God!

God does not call us to perfection and an ability to do it all. That's what makes HIM God. The more we know Him we see our sin and inabilities and they keep us clinging to Him. He knows that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14). He knows that we will grow tired and weary (Isaiah 40:30). He knows that we have hearts prone to be like Martha and He calls us away to chose the good portion (Luke 10:42) as He often did with Moses. He calls us to fellowship with Him and to love Him most of all. He calls us to hope in Him, to rejoice in all things, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks (I Thess. 5:16-18). He calls us to not grow weary and give up (Galatians 6:9)...He calls us to be faithful (I Timothy 3:11)...to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). And, as we do that, He directs our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). He leads us in the way we should go through His Word, the Holy Spirit, and the godly council of our husbands, friends and leaders. He uses those things and others to encourage our hearts that "this is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21).

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

And, in the light of His glory and grace our guilt finds no resting place and is swallowed up in mercy and the cross and all those good things start to fall into their proper place in the light of the Great...our Lord Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just Remembering....

No time to write...but couldn't help but remember today...it was this day, November 10th, one year ago, that we came to Canada to visit for the first time. What a year it has been, what a thankful heart is mine, and what an amazing God we serve!

"Call to Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

Monday, November 8, 2010

Know Him?!

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed: always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies." 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

I read verses like this and feel like I can so totally agree...though not to the same degree as Paul. I am not afflicted in every way...I have small "afflictions" each and every day. Each day seems to bring new perplexing situations...usually by my children! I truly do not feel that I am persecuted the way many believers were in the New Testament but sometimes I do feel the weight and responsibility of proclaiming God's truth even when it's not received well. I often feel struck down...by my own sin, the sin of my children, and how it often effects the dynamic of our home.

I feel like I can often say in the same breath...I am exhausted, but good; I am near tears but so thankful for God's faithfulness; I want to crawl under the covers and escape but I am so thankful for my family; I am so tired of instructing, discipling, and disciplining my kids but I am so thankful for the responsibility and call by God to do so. The list of what needs to be done seems endless and I feel like I have no more strength but I am thankful for another day of life!

It's the pull between my flesh and my spirit...between what I know to be true and how I allow (or don't allow) it to be lived out in my life. It's about making choices to take my thoughts captive or listen to them and feel "sorry" for myself. It's whether or not I am living out the reality that I am called to daily deny self, take up my cross, and follow Jesus (only then can I share in the life giving power that comes in dying to self and living by faith in the One Who's power perfects weakness). It's daily recognizing that I am nothing more than a jar of clay...dirt. It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Christ!!!

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul shows the perfect balance. He is very aware of how hard life is...very aware of the pains, toils, and struggles that come every day. But he lives in the light of his glorious God. His aim isn't comfort, ease, or having all of his questions answered. His aim is "to KNOW CHRIST and the power of His resurrection, and (that he) may share His sufferings, becoming LIKE HIM in his death..."(Phil. 3:10). Because that was Paul's goal he was not crushed, in despair, forsaken, or destroyed. He KNEW God and that changed everything!

This past month the Lord has impressed upon me that I need to seek to "simply" KNOW HIM! I spend a lot of time reading books and studying how to be a godly wife and mother, how to manage my home, how to honor God with my time and energy...and all those things are very good and very important but all those things must be the overflow of my love relationship with God. The more I know Him...the more it will change every area of my life and cause me to be a godly wife, mom, and friend . I don't ever want my relationship with my Heavenly Father to become dry and systematic...a list of what I should do or should not do. My prayer is that words like "deep", "longing", "intimate", and "passionate" would mark my life and my relationship with my Savior.

I am so thankful that God wants me to know Him...so thankful that He has given me a Book full of words that describe Him and show forth His glory and so thankful for the Holy Spirit...God IN me...to keep me from being "stagnant" or "dry". So thankful for His passionate pursuit of me and His promise that when I seek Him I will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13) and that He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wild or Wise?

Okay, ladies...I have a book recommendation for you! Not just for you...but for your teen daughters, the college gals in your home or church, and yes, even your mom! I usually do not give out recommendations till I have finished reading a book...but this one is too good not to give out in time for you to add it to your Christmas order! And,as a side note, for my Canadian friends...she is a Canadian!:)

"Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild" by Mary A. Kassian

Using the book of Proverbs she tackles 20 points of contrast between a "girl gone wild" and a "girl gone wise"...and don't be fooled by the label "girl"...if you are a woman and you are breathing :) you'll be blessed by the insight and wisdom found in this book!

Chapter 5 was all about habits and priorities and I loved what she had to say...

"An orderly, disciplined life is a hallmark of those who follow Jesus....Is your life orderly and disciplined? Are you putting first things first? A well-known American journalist once said, "Don't waste your breath proclaiming what's really important to you. How you spend your time says it all...There's no sense talking about priorities. Priorities reveal themselves. We're all transparent against the face of the clock." There's a lot of truth in those words. Priorities reveal themselves in habits. If asked, most of us could come up with quite a list of good-looking priorities. Unfortunately, for most people, this list would itemize the things we know should take precedence in our lives, but that really don't. It's not what we say but what we do that reveals our true priorities. That's why I titled this chapter "Habits" and not "Priorities". Looking at what you routinely do reveals what your priorities really are....Each day we make dozens and dozens of small decisions. Each individual decision seems trivial and inconsequential. But together they add up to a habitual pattern that is either life-giving or live-quenching. Paul warns, "If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live"(Romans 8:13)."

My heart's cry is to have my habits line up with what I know my priorities should be. It takes discipline fueled by a passion for the glory of God and even then, in and of my own strength, my habits will fall far short and my priorities will be out of order. I can't do it on my own. Mary goes on to say:

"Given my own strength and willpower, my ability to live a self-disciplined life is extremely limited. That's why I need to depend on my "Helper". The Lord gives me His Spirit to help me in my weaknesses. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). The truth of the matter is, I don't have enough power to overcome the sinful pull towards self-indulgence. I don't love God or others enough to sacrifice my own comfort and pleasure for the sake of theirs. I don't have the self-discipline to make myself do what I ought to do. On my own, I do not have the capacity to put first things first. But thankfully (and this is the wonder of the Gospel), it doesn't matter. The Lord gives me all I need. He provides the power, love, and self-discipline I so desperately lack. Therefore, doing the right thing doesn't depend on me drumming up enough willpower. Success is a matter of depending upon the Holy Spirit and not on my own capacity."

Good stuff, aye? Next week, I hope to share some habits that we are seeking to instill into our lives and the lives of our kids so that our priorities rightly reflect that there is nothing in life that compares to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:7)!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It is well with my soul

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1

I continue to be so thankful for the godly men and women that have gone before me and on into glory. They testify through their writings, songs, journals, poems, and legacies that God is enough.

I was listening to Nancy Leigh DeMoss's radio program (Revive our Hearts...SO GOOD!) as I walked on the treadmill today and I literally found myself sobbing as I listened to a story I have heard many times before but the weight of it...the weight of his love for God above all else...always strikes right to the core of me and I find my heart crying out to God that He would help me to know Him and love Him the way Horatio Spafford did when he penned the words to the song "It is Well with My Soul".

Even if you have heard his story before...would you take a few minutes and read it again as retold by Nancy...

Most of you have probably heard this story, but I think it’s one always worth repeating. Horatio Spafford was a successful Chicago lawyer and businessman in the mid-1800s. He and his wife, Anna, were close friends and prominent supporters of the evangelist D. L. Moody.

In 1870 the Spaffords’ only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, all of the Spaffords’ sizeable real estate holdings on Chicago’s lake shore (if you’ve been there, you know that’s prime property) were destroyed by the great Chicago fire.

So they had suffered two huge losses; of course, one was far greater than the other, but losing a son at the age of four, and then losing all their real estate holdings.

In 1873, after all they’d been through, Horatio decided to take his family to England for a much needed rest. They were just worn out from the whole experience, and Moody was in Britain conducting evangelistic meetings at the time.

The family planned to go meet him there and help out in the ministry. The Spaffords traveled together to New York from Chicago where they were to board a ship to cross the Atlantic.

Just before they were to set sail, a last-minute business issue came up that Horatio had to attend to. Instead of having the whole family delay their trip, he decided to send his family on ahead, as had been planned, and he would follow later after he attended to his business.

So his wife, Anna, and their four daughters set sail while Horatio went back west to Chicago to take care of the problem. Nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife, who was, by this time, in Wales.

The telegram read simply, “Saved alone.” En route from New York to Europe, the ship that his wife and children were on had collided with another ship, and within 12 minutes the ship that his wife and family were on had sunk, and 226 people had lost their lives.

Anna had stood on the deck with her daughters, Anna, Maggie, and Bessie, clinging desperately to her, and then she watched as they were swept away into the sea.

Her last memory was of her baby, a little girl named Tinetta, being torn from her arms by the surging waters. Anna, too, was cast into the sea and became unconscious, but she was saved because a plank floated underneath her body and supported her until she was rescued.

When he heard the horrible news, Horatio took the next ship from New York to join his wife in Europe. At one point, while they were still in the Atlantic, the captain called Horatio to the bridge and said, “I believe this is the spot where the ship that your family was on went down.”

Horatio went back to his cabin on that ship where he wrote the words to this hymn that we’ve all sung, and it’s brought comfort to how many millions of believers in the many years since then:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, [pleasure or pain, sun or rain, gain or loss, life or death],
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
"It is well; it is well with my soul."

Though Satan should buffet,
[and by the way, this is really just a variation on Habakkuk’s song],
Though Satan should buffet,
Though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Monday, November 1, 2010

In God's Hands

It's amazing how quick I can be to turn my life into the work of "my hands". It's because I start thinking of things in terms of "my"....my schedule, my parenting, my cooking, my planning, my abilities, my responsibility. And my spirit grows independent, my faith grows weak, and my love for Jesus grows a bit stale. It can happen in a moment or grow over days...it's all about my perspective...what my mind is being renewed by and what thoughts I am (or am not) taking captive.

Jesus is so gracious...He is quick to bring me to a helpless state of recognizing, once again, that "apart from him I can do nothing"(John 15:5). I am so thankful for all the loving ways He disciplines me and draws me to the foot of the cross...a child who continues to lie and leave me bewildered and helplessly crying out for wisdom, a meal that is burnt, a schedule that goes haywire leaving me looking to Jesus for His strength and joy to accomplish what needs to be done in the short hours I have left, the pains and trials of others that cause me to run to the Healer and Provider and Sustainer because only He knows best and can heal, provide, and sustain in the ways that they need.

The works of my hands will burn. They are as filthy rags. They are but echoes of pride within the walls of my heart. My life must be lived by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Everything that I am and everything I do must be laid down as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) before the One Who truly holds it all in His hands, Who is the Giver of life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:24)....for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36).

Martin Luther got it...yesterday, over 400 years ago, he nailed 95 theses' upon a wooden door and, in many beautiful words, proclaimed "IT'S ALL ABOUT GOD!!!!" I am so thankful for the example and testimony that God has given us in a man like Martin Luther and so thankful for the passion He had for the Word of God and the glory of God above all things. And, today, God used him to encourage my heart and to spark this blog post through words he spoke many years ago:

"I have held many things in My hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."