Thursday, July 28, 2011

Camping in Julyuary

We haven't been camping as a family in 4 years...crazy, huh? I have gone with the kids and my parents when Bryan wasn't able to get away from work (and we did two nights at church family camp)...but this time, we ALL got to go for a full week!

Unfortunately, it was not the kind of camping we were hoping and praying for. The area, Timothy Lake in Oregon, was beautiful and the company was great ( my parents), but the weather was cold and a bit rainy. I burned more calories "shivering" than I did "swimming"!:)

Our kids seem to have a special layer of fat that makes them think they are penguins or polar bears or something.:) It was only 55 degrees out and they STILL went in the water. Although, I dare say, even they burned more shivering (once they got out) then they did swimming!:)

And, truthfully, if I was looking at our week of camping from simply a logistical point of view, I WOULD NEVER GO CAMPING AGAIN!:) Between all the work it takes to get ready to go and all the work involved once you get back home...having bad weather can make it all seem NOT worthwhile! But it's not just about the logistics, it's about the memories. It's about sharing life together. It's about "rejoicing in all things" because we know from whom "all things" come and we know that He always does what is best for us...even when that means a cold, wet vacation!

Having said all that, another thing that has come out of our camping adventure is a jar labeled "vacation fund, destination: Hawaii"!:)

This was a daily sight as my dad tried to listen through the static to hear the score/game of our beloved Red Sox :)

The kids had a lot of fun using my parent's kayaks.

We sold our 2 seater kayak and bought a paddle board! It is so much fun and Bryan is so excited about it!

God promise on display in the midst of the rain (there is actually a double rainbow if you look closely).

We took a day trip to the mall to get out of the rain!

That's Mt. Hood in the background. Both this picture and the very first one were taken from our campsite...pretty cool, huh?!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Relationships 101

I told you a while back that I was reading a book called, "What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage" by Paul Tripp. Well, I finished it a few weeks ago and now Bryan and I are reading it together. In Paul's first chapter, there is about a page and a half about what it looks like for one sinner to relate to another sinner and it is just FANTASTIC wisdom, not only for our marriages but for any other relationship we have...with friends, family, our children.

I wanted to share it with all of you the first time I read the book, but I didn't want to take the time to type it all out.:) Well, I feel like the Lord is prompting my heart to, I guess that means I have to type. So, here is the deal...since I am going to take all this time to type, would you hold up your end and take the few minutes to read it?! (Didn't know you had an "end" to hold up, did you?):)

"You are a sinner married to a sinner. I will say much more about this throughout the book, but you and I just don't get to be married to someone perfect. It seems true when you read it, but even though it seems obvious, many people get married with the unrealistic expectations about who they are marrying. Here is the point: you both bring something into your marriages that is destructive to what the marriage needs and must do. That thing is called sin. Most of the trouble we face in marriage is not intentional or personal. In most marriage situations, you do not face difficulty because your spouse intentionally did something to make your life difficult. Yes, in moments of anger that may happen. But most often, what is really happening is that your life is being affected by the sin, weakness, and failure of the person you are living with. So, if your wife is having a bad day, that bad day will splash up on you in some way. If your husband is angry with his job, there is a good possibility that he will bring that anger home with him.

At some point you will be selfish. In some situation you will speak unkindly. There will be moments of jealousy, bitterness, and conflict. You will not avoid this, because you are a sinner and you are married to a sinner. If you minimize the heart struggle that both of you have carried into your marriage, here's what will happen: you will tend to turn moments of ministry into moments of anger. When you ears hear and your eyes see the sin, weakness, or failures of your husband or wife, it is never an accident; it is always grace. God loves your spouse, and He is committed to transforming him or her by His grace, and He has chosen you to be one of His regular tools of change. So, He will cause you to see, hear, and experience your spouse's need for change so that you can be an agent of His rescue.

Often, in these God-given moments of ministry, rather than serving God's purposes we get angry because somehow our spouse is in the way of what we want. This leads to the second thing that happens: the reason we turn moments of ministry into moments of anger is that we tend to personalize what it not personal. At the end of his bad day at work, your husband doesn't say to himself, "I know what I'll do. I'll take my bad day out on my wife so that her day gets as wrecked as mine." No, the trouble you are experiencing is not about you directly. Yes, it is your trouble, because this angry man is your husband. But what you are experiencing is not personal in terms of conscious intentionality. You are living with a sinner, so you will experience his sin.

Now, when you personalize what is not personal you tend to be adversarial in your response. When that happens, what motivates you is not the spiritual need in your spouse that God has revealed but your spouse's offense against you, your schedule, your peace, etc. So, your response is not a "for him" response but an "against him" response. Rather than wanting to minister to him, what you actually want to do is get him out of your way so you can go back to whatever was engaging you beforehand. Let's be honest - all of us have been there.

When we respond in an adversarial way, we actually escalate the trouble that the other person has splashed up on us. This leads to one more thing: because we have turned a moment of ministry into a moment of anger by personalizing what was not personal, we are adversarial in our response, and because we are, we settle for quick situational solutions that do not get to the heart of the matter. Rather than searching for ways to help, we tell the other to get a grip, we attempt to threaten them into silence, or we get angry and turn a moment of weakness into a major confrontation.

This is one place where I think the Bible is so helpful. The world of the Bible is like your world - messy and broken. The people of the Bible are like you and your spouse - weak and failing. The situations of the Bible are like yours - complicated and unexpected. The Bible just isn't a cosmetic religious book. It will shock you with it's honesty about what happens in the broken world in which we live. From the sibling homicide of Cain to the money-driven betrayal of Judas, the blood and guts of a broken world are strewn across every page. The honesty of God about the address where we all live is itself an act of love and grace. He sticks our head through the biblical peephole so we will be forced to see the world as it really is, not as we fantasize it to be. He does this so that we will be realistic in our expectations, then humbly reach out for the help that He alone is able to give us."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chewing through the Chores

Well, I am happy to report that I am down to my last couple of sleeping bags (and, yes, I know that you don't have to wash sleeping bags every time they are used...but if you saw all the "outdoors" that fell out of two of the boys sleeping would have thrown them them in the wash, too!:)). The house is also looking somewhat recovered after being the "dumping station" that it was when we first got home. And that is making for one happy momma!:)

So, what exactly was I chewing on throughout the chores today? It wasn't gum and it wasn't my mouth doing the was a blog post that got my brain "chewing".

"Listen to them or lose them" is the title of a blog post written by Barbara Challies on the True Women blog. It's also a phrase that I will not soon forget. Her post was convicting to my own heart...but it also excited me. It was one of those "a-ha" moments in regards to my own mom!

My mom is one of my dearest friends...and, as I reflected on the post today, I truly believe that much of the "dear" in dearest is because she listened to me...a lot (in fact, when my third brother was born (I was a little over 4 years old) she actually cried in relief that he was not another girl because she didn't think she could handle much more emotion and talking!:)). And not only did she listen to me as I was growing up, but she still listens to me now. Though I couldn't have articulated it well before reading today's post, the love my mom showed me in this area of "listening" is one of the things that won my heart. Whether I am with my mom or talking to her on the phone, I know that I am "known, loved, and safe".

In 25 years will my own daughters be able to say the same about me? I pray that they will. But I also know that I have a long way to go in this area of listening...and I am so thankful for women like Barbara Challies taking the time to encourage women like me!!!

Here is what she shared:

Daughters. How we long for them and love them. But what exhausting little creatures they are! Ask almost any parent and I think you will hear the same thing. They love to talk . . . and talk . . . and talk.

Fortunately as a woman, I love to talk . . . and talk . . . and talk, as well. But I also love to listen. Over the years, I have spent an astounding number of hours listening to my three daughters. In retrospect, I think this is one of the best gifts I have ever given them. Let me explain.

All children are born with questions, big ones. I remember Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (Francis Schaeffer’s daughter) saying that every question she has heard from an adult she has also heard from a child–just presented in a different form. An adult might ask, “What are foundational, epistemological principles?” A child just asks, “How do I know I am not really a robot?” (a secret fear of mine as a child). Children need answers to big questions, desperately. One of the most important functions of a parent is “prophetic,” interpreting life to tiny people who have next to no context for determining the nature of truth and reality. What a privilege this is for the parents! What a gift to the child! The importance of this type of communication applies equally to boys and girls.

The reason girls become particularly exhausting is that the world of ideas is just one level of their being. Along with this, they have tremendous interest in the world of people. Specifically, they are extremely sensitive to people as they impact their own lives. “What did she mean by that?” “Is she really saying she doesn’t like me?” “Are they better friends than we are?” And so on. Girls twist themselves into knots responding to their own world of people. Because of this, they are often desperately insecure. And the related pain is very real.

If you don’t parent them on this level, there is generally one result. They can’t carry the burden of these emotions and they harden. As I tell my grown children, “Listen to them or lose them.” For any child, time spent with him equals love. But for girls, time “being listened to” trumps any other activity. Their need for support, to know and be known, is simply voracious. And there is nothing wrong with that. They resonate to “people vibes.” It is the way God has made them.

If you work with this, they feel known, loved, and safe. You win their hearts. They become your friends. You don’t cease to be a parent, but you have a genuine friendship, as well. And this bodes well for the future. As they get older, the bond of friendship–the horizontal bond–pulls them toward faithfulness and loyalty to you as parents just as much as the vertical bond of authority. There is just too much love and intimacy for them to easily go astray. Girls do not readily violate intimate relationships. It is just not their nature. They are “bound” with bonds of love–built on the foundation of listening.

Of course, alongside this is the nurturing of an intimate relationship with God–also built on the two layers of the objective and the personal. God and His ways fulfill both mind and heart wonderfully. When girls are well-known by parents–both the best and the worst about them–they “dare” move close to their heavenly Father because they understand grace. It has been offered to them from childhood. And it all stems from listening to them–knowing them better than they know themselves, then caring deeply and intimately for their souls. This is what they most want. They will love you deeply for it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Camping Aftermath

To steal from an old American Express commercial:

12 loads of clothes and towels to be washed, folded, and put all-day job and an extra cup of coffee!

13 blankets and sleeping bags to be washed and dried...tomorrow's project

1 camper that needs to be cleaned and aired out...Wednesday's assignment (or maybe we'll just clean it after the next time we go camping :))

6 kiddos that made lots of memories and were all smiles despite the rain and cold temperatures.....PRICELESS!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Calling all moms to read "Motherhood is a Calling"!

I came across this article via the "Girltalk Blog" and wanted to repost it here....and not as a mom sitting on a pedestal thinking to myself..."Boy, do all the mothers in my life need to read this". This mom (me!) is sitting on the floor at the feet of Jesus asking for help to live out the calling that I, everyday, fall way short of!

A few years ago, when I just had four children and when the oldest was still three, I loaded them all up to go on a walk. After the final sippy cup had found a place and we were ready to go, my two-year-old turned to me and said, “Wow! You have your hands full!”

She could have just as well said, “Don’t you know what causes that?” or “Are they all yours?!”

Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers. All this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen.

A Rock-Bottom Job?

The truth is that years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.

If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children. How much have we listened to partial truths and half lies? Do we believe that we want children because there is some biological urge, or the phantom “baby itch”? Are we really in this because of cute little clothes and photo opportunities? Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? If so, what were we thinking?

It's Not a Hobby

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in.
It is what God gave you time for.

Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.

Our culture is simply afraid of death. Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying. Strangely, it is that fear that drives the abortion industry: fear that your dreams will die, that your future will die, that your freedom will die—and trying to escape that death by running into the arms of death.

Run to the Cross

But a Christian should have a different paradigm. We should run to to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.

Death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, ought to know what follows death. The Christian life is resurrection life, life that cannot be contained by death, the kind of life that is only possible when you have been to the cross and back.

The Bible is clear about the value of children. Jesus loved them, and we are commanded to love them, to bring them up in the nurture of the Lord. We are to imitate God and take pleasure in our children.

The Question Is How

The question here is not whether you are representing the gospel, it is how you are representing it. Have you given your life to your children resentfully? Do you tally every thing you do for them like a loan shark tallies debts? Or do you give them life the way God gave it to us—freely?

It isn’t enough to pretend. You might fool a few people. That person in line at the store might believe you when you plaster on a fake smile, but your children won’t. They know exactly where they stand with you. They know the things that you rate above them. They know everything you resent and hold against them. They know that you faked a cheerful answer to that lady, only to whisper threats or bark at them in the car.

Children know the difference between a mother who is saving face to a stranger and a mother who defends their life and their worth with her smile, her love, and her absolute loyalty.

Hands Full of Good Things

When my little girl told me, “Your hands are full!” I was so thankful that she already knew what my answer would be. It was the same one that I always gave: “Yes they are—full of good things!”

Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.

Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone.

Rachel Jankovic is a wife, homemaker, and mother. She is the author of "Loving the Little Years" and blogs at Femina. Her husband is Luke, and they have five children: Evangeline (5), Daphne (4), Chloe (2), Titus (2), and Blaire (5 months).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Everyday moments

I think I can sum up what the last month of life has felt like with the above picture.:) But, it doesn't quite feel like a dog dragging's more like a galloping horse! Or maybe a better analogy would be that of a skier who is getting dragged behind the speed boat because he has lost all common sense to just LET GO OF THE ROPE!:)

That is not to say that life has been terrible, it's just been busy! (As seen in my almost month long gap in writing!) I had the sweet blessing of having my cousin, Brooklyn, visit for two weeks! What a sweet help she was! I told her if she ever comes to visit again, she should rename her trip as a "missions trip to Canada to take care of her crazy, old cousin and her 6 kiddos"! :)

Though I have not blogged much and taking pictures has been far and few between...I have managed to catch a couple "everyday moments" which give a glimpse into the life of the Pichuras! We are all still very much "alive and kicking"! :)

We are not sure where our son Titus has gone to, but we do have the privilege of having Peter from Narnia living with us for the past month (NOT JOKING...this is what Titus looks like at some point almost every day!)

I am not even going to give an explanation for this picture. Anyone who has girls has come upon this "scene" at some time in their lives!:)
This is what happens when you leave a couple sips of your coffee in your mug, leave your mug on the arm rest of the car, and then have your husband hit the breaks...HARD! :) (click on the will give you a better idea!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

2 years ago today....we met them

They had been a photo on our fridge, a desire we had prayed for, holders of a place in our hearts....and two years ago today, July 13, we held them in more than just our hearts. We held them in our arms.

It was awkwardly amazing and painfully beautiful. I'm not sure how else to describe it. To step off a bus and watch two little boys walk through a door to you knowing that they were your sons and you were their parents but still being complete strangers all at the same time is awkwardly beautiful. To give them hugs that were met with hesitancy, see smiles that didn't quite reach their eyes, and see eyes that held uncertainty...yet knowing that you'll be giving them hugs for the rest of their lives, see smiles that will light up their eyes and, one day, know that their eyes will, Lord willing, be filled with trust is painfully beautiful.

We took Samuel and Caleb back to the guest house that day, not as orphans, but as our sons. They knew only a couple of words in English and we knew only a couple of words in Amharic. It couldn't have seemed more impossible and God's grace couldn't have been greater! We felt the weight of the fact that we were now responsible to God for two more souls and we felt the joy of knowing that His grace would be sufficient, His mercies would continue to be new every morning, and His purposes would continue to stand to all generations, including the one we had the privilege to be a part of raising.

Our hope was in the Lord on July 13, 2009 and, because of that, it was a day that we will look back on with memories that were awkwardly amazing and painfully beautiful but, more than all that, we will look back and echo the words of David in Psalm 40:5:

"Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare."

Monday, July 11, 2011

2 years ago today....

....we kissed Micah, Grace, Faith, and Titus good-bye, left them in the hands of wonderful friends, and boarded a plane for Ethiopia. We had 3 suitcases: one full of our own personal belongings, one full of medical supplies, deflated soccer balls, and formula, and one full of little boys clothes, sizes 4 and 7. Two years ago today we were on our way to meet two little orphan brothers who would, less than a week later, become our sons.
As I reflect back on the adoption journey that led us to July 11, 2009 my heart is full of thanksgiving and so many precious memories...some bittersweet, some painful, many beautiful and all orchestrated and ordained by a God who is forever calling orphaned sinners into His forever family.

God used so many people to bring Samuel and Caleb into our family....many whom we never expected and many whom we never even met. The hands-on help in Ethiopia, the council, and the encouragement of the staff of our adoption agency (CWA) was just amazing. We received adoption grants from funds like Steven Curtis Chapman's Show Hope and Katelyn's Fund. We were given money gifts from anonymous people and we were given so much love and support from friends in Yakima. They put on an amazing potato feed fundraiser/auction and helped in so many other ways with their time, energy, resources, and presence. God even used children and their piggy banks to help bring the boys home! We were able to take a full suitcase of needed supplies to the orphanage in Addis Ababa because of the generosity of people in states all over the country. (How we wish that those both near and far could know Samuel and Caleb and see the sweet "fruit" of their gifts and labors of love)

Over and over again God showed us just how BIG He is, His personal involvement in every detail of our lives, His wisdom that surpasses our understanding, and the strong tower of refuge He is in the midst of battles...battles of emotions, paperwork, and judges. Hugs from God came in all different shapes and sizes and we learned how beautiful it was to rest in those hugs and trust the arms that are "mighty to save" when we faced trails and uncertainties throughout our adoption journey.

In many ways, July 11, 2009 felt like a new beginning...but what made the beginning of a new chapter of our lives so beautifully sweet and exciting was the joy of knowing that the same God who had worked mightily and marvelously in the past year (and every year beyond that) was the same God Who would carry us still. And that truth had us singing His praises then, and keeps us singing them still!

"Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him; sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered..."
I Chronicles 16:8-12