Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Program

Faith, Titus, and Caleb were in their school Christmas program last Tuesday, "Three Wise Men and A Baby".  It was so precious...and such a blessing to hear the gospel proclaimed. Faith was the narrator and did a GREAT job. Titus had  solo that started a bit rocky...but he really does have a great voice! Little Caleb has been gifted with a beautiful voice, too, but his favorite audience is still the bathroom! ;) 





Can you see little Caleb second row from the top on the end? :)


Monday, December 24, 2012

Our Electronic Christmas Letter!




Dear Family and Friends, 

I’ll be honest, we planned to pass on writing a Christmas letter this year.  In fact, as we look back on our last couple of Christmases in Canada, they have been void of Christmas greetings, too.We pray that none of you felt unloved by our lack of “Christmas Cheer”. 

Living in Canada made many things just a little bit more difficult....and a little bit more expensive! We tried to do most of our shopping, mailing, and banking in the states...but getting across the border could often be time consuming and a bit stressful! 

There are many things we miss about living in Canada...especially the people!!!...but there are many things that we are thankful to not have to deal with anymore. When you are not a citizen of the country you are living in, it’s amazing how difficult it can be...how many times our living was “interrupted” by the legality of our temporary residency. It was, on the other hand, a beautiful reminder that THIS world is not our home...our true citizenship is in Heaven!!! 

It was some of those legal issues that brought us back to the United States in March of 2012. We were in Canada just shy of 2 years when Bryan, along with other staff, resigned from his pastorate. It was certainly not what we had ever planned. We had begun to think our kids would grow up, marry Canadians, and stay in Canada! But when the purity of the pulpit is not upheld, the decision, though painful, is clear. 

And boy was it painful. We have had to leave other churches in the past (and we have learned much about what to do and what not to do in the process), but this was the first time that, in resigning, we also had to leave our home, as well. Yep, legal stuff! Our residency was attached to Bryan’s job. No job, no residency.
We were thankful, though, to be able to stay until our residency expired on March 1st. 

Things looked really bleak, but God is forever faithful. He encouraged us over and over and over again through the people we had ministered to, become friends with, and served alongside of. He met all of our needs those 3 months that we were still in Canada and Bryan was without work. Through the financial gifts of others, a part of a cow to fill our freezer...and even a turkey for Christmas Day; He gave us hug after hug through His saints, our brothers and sisters in Christ. My eyes well up, even now, as I think about the kindness and love that was extended to us.  

We loaded up a “container” the last week of February, expecting to store most of our possessions and move in with my parents for a season.  The day before we left Canada, though,  a house (owned by a couple in my parent’s church) opened up for us to move into. What a BLESSING from the LORD!  My parents house was small...and it would have been very TIGHT! :)

God’s faithfulness is great, both in the good times and in the dark times, and we continued to feel the rays of His grace upon us. Mid April, after being brought forward by the search committee and the elders, Bryan was voted in as a pastor at my dad’s church, First Baptist Church (of Hood River, Oregon). Our hearts continue to be so full of thanksgiving at God’s timing, His provision, and the precious church body that we now get to call “our family”.  After that, my parents put their house on the market....an offer was made on it 5 days later and then we all put an offer on a big house about 15 minutes outside of town, which was accepted! 

We moved into 2880 Bear Ridge Drive the third week of June and, though the house is set up perfectly for 2 families living together, it took the rest of the summer to get our lives “in order” and get used to a new routine. Though most think we are crazy, it has been a sweet gift to live so close! I am not sure many can call their parents and “in laws” amongst their closest friends, so it’s a blessing to have that privilege!

In July, thanks to my grandmother, my whole side of the family got together for a summer vacation in Sunriver, Oregon. Included in the group was my brother Paul’s new wife, Sarah! Their wedding in May was just beautiful...but it was a quick weekend and we were so excited to know that we would all be together again in July. My grandmother, aunt, and cousin flew out as well to be with us. Sweet memories and good times of rest is how we remember our vacation with each other...which is pretty impressive when you think that there were 20 plus people together for over a week! :)

August brought a change of plans and direction. I was preparing to order all my curriculum for homeschooling the kids when I received a call from the Christian school in town, Horizon. They were in need of a teacher’s assistant for the 3rd and 4th grade class and wanted to know if I would be interested. 

In all honesty, my first thought was not elation but tears. I had been working at home for the past 12 years and the thought of making a shift to outside the home just sounded overwhelming. After much prayer and seeking the council of others, we decided that this, indeed, was a gift from the Lord for this year and this season of life. We had made our plans...but the Lord was directing our steps a bit differently! 

The kids are doing great in school...both academically and socially. We have also seen sweet spiritual growth in some of them that just blesses are socks off. But,  I’d be lying if I said it’s been “easy as pie”. It’s hard and tiring working all day and then coming home to more that needs to be done. I am so very thankful that I was able to stay home with the kiddos during their early years....years of critical foundation laying! Bryan, too, has stayed super busy. He is so thankful for the blessing of being able to minister at First Baptist.  He has also been refereeing volleyball, and now, basketball which takes him out most nights of the week and some Saturdays. 

All that said, if you have found our email responses to be a bit slower, my blog posts to be much more sporadic, and our availability to be slightly restricted...please bear with us. It’s a season of adjustment for all of us!

In closing, our family has been focusing on the Incarnation this past month. Ask any of them, and they should (hopefully!) be able to tell you what that means. :) Jesus, who was and is fully God, became fully man. 

The Creator came as One created. The King of kings and Lord of lords came as a servant, rejected by men, and well acquainted with sorrows. He grew weary, but never impatient; tired but never irritable; accused but never defensive....for you and for me. He did it to appease God’s wrath and make a way for us to be a part of His family....children of God Almighty and heirs of His grace, mercy, and eternal life. Apart from Him we have no good thing and in HIS light do we truly see light. In the light of His Word, the eternal becomes clearer and the temporal matters less. What a gift it is to celebrate Jesus and all that His life accomplishes on our behalf! 

We’d love to hear how God has worked in your lives this past year! Our email address is: pichurak@gmail.com. Our home address is 2880 Bear Ridge Drive, Hood River, OR 97031 and, of course, there is always Facebook and our family blog: www.justtheclay.blogspot.com

Merry Christmas and much love, 

The Pichura Family







Monday, November 26, 2012

Let Jesus' Glory Shine

"From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Psalm 8:2

Lately, Titus has showed a sweet sensitivity to the things of the Lord. His prayers, his conversations, his questions...they all reflect a heart that is contemplating the greatness of God...and a desire to know Him and be with Him one day. There is nothing more precious to our ears or eyes than hearing and seeing our kids pursue Christ. Our prayer is that their child-like faith blooms into saving faith at a young age!

Titus wrote this praise song to Jesus a couple of weeks ago. When my brother Paul, and his wife, Sarah, came to visit...Paul was an AMAZING uncle and took the time to compose music to go with Titus' words. I actually have had the tune "stuck" in my head this past week....it really is beautiful! 

Here are the lyrics:

Let Jesus' Glory Shine 

We want to know Your praises; 
How great is our God.
We live for You, Jesus;
How great is our God.

We want you to be lifted, 
Shining forth your glory;
I feel the sun that You have made!

We lift you higher, 
We will worship You forever!
I praise you, Jesus, You reign!









Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Faithful Men, Faithful Words

"....those who act faithfully are His delight."  Proverbs 12:22b

My heart is so full of thanksgiving for the blessing it is to be surrounded by godly men and women. They are everywhere...praise the Lord....in our church, writing books, preaching messages that we can listen to over the internet....the opportunities to be encouraged in Christ through the examples of others seem just about endless!

Here is a highlight of some dear faithful men and their faithful words:

- Pastor John MacArthur shared some fantastic thoughts on the election and the world as we know it. It's just 11 minutes long but it's jam packed with insightful wisdom and truth on today's culture!

What Now?

- Bryan preached a passionate message on Philippians 1 a couple of Sundays ago....what a blessing to my own heart as well as convicting as he shared with us what it truly means to be "Together in Truth".

Together in Truth

- My heart continues to be refreshed and my thinking renewed by the prayers of Pastor Scotty Smith. Here is an excerpt from his prayer on Sunday that has stayed in the forefront of my mind these last few days:

 "Lord Jesus, you are so kind, compassionate, and forgiving of me. May the fragrant aroma of the sacrifice you made for me on the cross to permeate all my relationships. You’re not calling us to change or fix anyone. You’re calling us to live as a broken perfume bottle, through whom the aroma of grace will bring your gentling and transforming presence. Show me how to boast in you and in my weakness, that I might freely and gladly live as a servant of others."


Sunday, November 4, 2012

"My flesh hanging all out"

There have been many complaints made that facebook users and bloggers do not always show us a REAL picture of what their life is like. They share their highlights, the funny moments, the sweet sayings of their kids, the trips they went on, and the great pictures they took...BUT...they don't share the other side....the time they yelled at their kids (and it was the 10th time that day, actually), the fighting, the complaining, the ruined dinner, the embarrassing situation, the gossiping. You know, those moments when your "flesh" hangs all out of you and you can't stuff it back in fast enough!

Well, let there be no doubt about it...this post is an honest look at "my flesh hanging all out". I wish it were pretty...but it's not.

The last couple of months I have really been struggling with a complaining spirit.

Work at the school has truly been so wonderful....but it takes so many hours out of each day...and leaves that much less for that much more that needs to be done at home. Let the struggle begin:

"How come these kids can't do a better job picking up after themselves? This is ridiculous!"

"Unbelievable, I just cleaned off the counter and now look at it!"

"I just want a day with no demands. Is that even possible?!"

"Lord, I just wish there was some extra money so we could get take out and I wouldn't have to cook every night."

"Why does it take so long to make a meal that is consumed in minutes?!"

"There is so much to clean in this house!"

"I am so tired...I don't think I can help with one more homework project."

"Can't the kids just figure it out on their own?!"

"Why does life have to be so hard?"

Pretty ugly, huh? Lots of flesh hanging out and not a lot of sweet fruit of the Spirit to be found anywhere! Sure, a lot of these thoughts never even leave my head...but many do. But, even if no one knew about my complaining heart...God does...and He calls me to please Him not only in my actions but in the thoughts of my heart!(Psalm 19:14)

The Lord has convicted me that my attitude truly does not have anything to do with my situation but the status of my heart. And, as the Lord has humbled me, He's made it clear that my heart has been set on one thing...ME.

My dad said something in church this morning that rang with deep truth:

"False gospels seek to satisfy the flesh. But God's Word is clear. The flesh must DIE in order for my soul to be truly satisfied."

I was forgetting that. I have been living, loving my own soul instead of loving Christ most of all. I have been living for myself, instead of considering other's more important than myself. I have been clinging to my weaknesses and crying over them instead of clinging to Christ who gives GREAT strength in those weaknesses. I have been seeing the daily tasks of life as drudgery and "exhaustion makers" instead of seeing them as gifts of grace, as jobs tailored made for me by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Had I been taking my thoughts captive (instead of listening to them) I would have found joy (not in the jobs, necessarily) but in knowing I was "doing my work heartily for the Lord", "toiling with all HIS energy that He powerfully works in me", and bringing Him glory whether I "eat or drink or whatever I do".

John Newton put it this way:

"If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth's grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of it's meanest village; it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot: the post of ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God's will." 

O Lord, I know that there is victory in You. But only when I see you as the treasure above all treasures. Only when I cling to you as my portion...my whole portion. Only when I have no other gods before You...including myself. Forgive my complaining heart and help me to walk with joy before You!

"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!" Psalm 57:7





Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What do your leaves look like?

I don't know about you, but August and September were BEAUTIFUL months full of sun here in Oregon. The Pichura Family LOVES the sun...and we were very happy campers!:)

But about the second week of October, the rain started. It rained a lot. Then it rained a little. There were days of rest and days of relentless. Moments of hard rain, light mist, and everything in between. Even when the rain had stopped, the clouds seemed to linger.

And as the clouds have lingered, my awe has grown.

Why?

It's fall....and God's artistry, in the changing colors of the leaves, is AMAZING! Yet, I can say with all honesty, that the days I have noticed them the most are cloudy days. Days when the background is dark the leaves pop out. They look translucent. They look bright. They are colors that no crayon could duplicate. On cloudy days, right now, I wish our commute to school was 40 minutes instead of 20. More time to take in the grandeur and beauty of my precious Creator and Savior!

I got to thinking that the parallels between us and the rain, clouds, and leaves are worth pondering.

God allows situations in our lives that can be much like the rain we have seen around here the last couple of weeks ( I dare say, some of those trails can feel a bit more like Hurricane Sandy). The love of our life dies. We become sick or injured. We lose a job. A child walks away from the truths of God's Word...and walks into drugs, adulteress relationships, or even homosexuality. Heavy, heavy rain.

There is a season for everything, God says in Ecclesiastes. Praise the Lord that He promises His grace is sufficient for each season, for every plan He has for us. There is no hope outside of His promises.

But maybe we can't fully understand what those heavy rains must feel like. We have never dealt with them. All of us, though, have dealt with clouds. Some may be darker than others...but the daily trials of life are inevitable...and they can be quite painful.

They can also be revealing.

You see....as believers, we should be like the trees around Hood River this fall. The darker the sky, the brighter the color. The darker the trial, the more that Christ can be seen in our lives. Because, if He IS our life, whatever is stripped away from us just ends up revealing more of Him.

Pastor Scotty Smith said it this way in a prayer:

"Indeed, there is no greater state of blessedness than to be in Christ; and in those moments (and longer seasons) of temporary insanity when I’m tempted to think otherwise, bring me back to gospel sanity. Forgive me when I want more, think I need more, or, even worse, demand more. Free me when I think life is about Jesus plus something else. All I will ever need is Jesus plus what you choose to graciously provide. I believe, help my unbelief."

So, whatever the trial may be...because we are all facing trials of one kind or another...the question is still the same: What do your leaves look like?









Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Prayer A Day

A precious friend of mine sent me a prayer today that she is praying for me and my family. It was a prayer she got from Scotty Smith at Gospel Coalition. 

Just the fact that she is praying for us warms my heart and encourages my spirit immensely....but knowing WHAT she is praying made it all the more beautiful.

I went to go and find the prayer for myself...and I found even more!!!! It's a gold mine of prayers!!! I am not sure how Pastor Smith has escaped my notice till now....but boy, does this pastor have a way with words. And having those words in the form of prayers just makes them all the more precious!

His prayers, to me, are like a modern day "Valley of Vision" (prayers by Puritans)...and, not only can you get them sent to your email every day...but you can buy one of his three books, too!

Can you tell I am excited?!

Truth is, sometimes I am not sure what to pray when I am praying for others.  I feel like I just ate a bunch of peanut butter and then tried to talk. I feel stuck. I know the Holy Spirit intercedes for me...but I also want to grow in thinking deep and praying deep.

God just gave me some help....maybe it will help and encourage you, too!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Adoption....it's a beautiful thing!!!


I saw this video at chapel on Friday. Whether you have been adopted by your earthly parents or by your Heavenly Father....we have so much to be thankful for!!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Homeward

Life is a vapor. 

Our days are numbered before one of them came to be. 

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

A time to be born and a time to die.


Life is a sweet gift from God. It is also not a guarantee that we will awake tomorrow. Our days were sealed in God's master plan before one of them came to be...and God's plan is often different and earlier than we would plan.

We have had  two deaths in our small church family in the past couple of weeks. One dear saint in his late 60's and, just this past week, a husband and father (in his early 50's) passed away, leaving behind his precious wife and 3 kiddos.

Their deaths have brought a soberness to our church family and to our home. We do not know how God will see best to glorify Himself in our lives and in our family. Paul said it may be by life or it may be by death. It's an overwhelming thought to my finite mind. Of course, as Elizabeth Elliot once said, "God's grace does not go where our thoughts often take us". His grace is sufficient for the tasks He has called us to, though they are vastly different from one person to the next.

"Christians claim to believe that heaven - being present with God - is so wonderful, and yet act as if going there were the greatest tragedy.....Death, for the believer, is no tragedy. And for the believer to die well -to live and die aiming to glorify God- confident that God will make good on all of His promises - this is a thing of great beauty."      Joseph Bayly/Nancy Guthrie

I am so thankful for the precious words and testimonies of those that have gone before us...their thoughts on life and death, according to the Word of God, have encouraged my heart and challenged the fear that can creep up when I think of the death of a loved one. I can't tell you how thankful I am for the timing of a book that I read as part of a book club last month. I would not have picked the book on my own, and yet, the blessing it was (and is) to my own heart makes me want to buy everyone a copy and tell them to start reading right away!

"O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God" is a  compilation of writings by Nancy Guthrie of various Puritans as well as contemporary teachers and preachers. Through these writings, we see the reality of death, the hope in death, the promise of our future, and the encouragement to persevere in the here and now. So rich!

RC Sproul Jr. lost his wife last December to cancer (and, I just found out, his daughter died this past week). He is well acquainted with grief and death yet his testimony exalts the greatness of God and the overflowing mercy and grace He gives in the face of some of life's greatest pain and heartache.  His blog posts from last December and January were precious. Here are a couple:

What Now?
My better half

"A broken heart leads to the true contentment of asking less of this life because more is coming in the next...suffering hurries the heart homeward."  Joni Eareckson Tada

I know that many of our hearts are breaking over the news of the past few weeks....but I pray that it leads us all homeward. As Thomas Boston said:

"Death will take you to your best Friend, the Lord Christ....it puts out your candle, (and) it will carry you where there is no night, where there is eternal day."

Come, Lord Jesus, come!


Friday, September 21, 2012

The car ride home

The kids take after Bryan in many ways...but ALL of them seem to have inherited the "gift of gab" from me. It's a blessing to know what is on our kid's hearts and what is going on in their lives....but when it all comes at once, it's overwhelming!!!

Imagine six kids, all in one car, wanting to share a school day full of stories, irritations, recess time,  fun, homework, their quizes and tests, and just about a bazillion other things....ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!! Yep, it's not a pretty sight or sound!

So, to spare myself a major headache each day around 3 pm...and to still let my kids know that I care about their lives and their day....I came up with a plan. Or maybe I heard it from someone else at some point, forgot, and now think I am pretty smart!:)

On the ride home, each kiddo is allowed to share 2 things with the whole family: one thing they liked about the day and one thing they didn't like about the day (or two things they liked!). They have to do it all in just a few sentences. I know it may seem weird that I allow them to share one thing that they didn't like about the day....like I really need to help the kids out in the grumbling and complaining department, right?!

Yet, I have found that question to be most helpful. Since they are not allowed to elaborate during their turn, there is little room for gossip but much room to gain insight into a possible friendship problem, a needed heart adjustment, some extra hugs and love at home, school assignments that need special attention, and a myriad of other issues that might have otherwise gone unnoticed or unspoken.

The ride home has turned into a great time of interaction! By the time everyone has had their turn, we are about 5 minutes from home. Those 5 minutes can get a bit loud as they all start talking to each other...but often, those conversations are sparked by the sharing that took place...and I have been blessed to hear them encourage one another, give each other advice, or take an interest in something that was previously shared. They are growing up and engaging in each other's lives in new and deeper ways that make this mommy's heart swell! (And, lest you think we are some type of perfect family, as they grow, they are also arguing with each other in new and deeper ways, too!)

So, today, I am thanking the Lord for our 20 minute commute. It may cost $50 in gas a week....but, as the commercial goes, some things really are priceless!

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."  Ephesians 5:15-16






Thursday, September 20, 2012

Take your pick

 Accepting the job at Horizon also meant accepting the reality that life was going to be a bit crazier. Hmmm....scratch that. We were already one crazy bunch to begin with:). I guess the better word would be busier...less time for me to get the same amount of stuff done.

Delegation was in order!

I'll be honest, though. I am not the best delegator. I like things done a certain way, so I end up doing a lot more myself. Not good. In my desire for "control" I am not equipping my kids with basic skills that they need to learn.

Let the equipping commence!

We started out with laundry. We had lessons on lights and darks, water temps, stain removers, lint traps, and more. They were not super inspired, but I was super excited! :) The girls are responsible for doing their laundry together and the 4 boys are responsible for theirs (Micah and Samuel bear the brunt of it right now). They are still learning...and they are still forgetting. Caleb wore sandals (closed toe, of course :)) to school on Wednesday not because he wanted to, but because he had no socks! Guess what the boys were doing Wednesday night? :) All in all, they have caught on fairly well, and folding parties are the new "rage" in our house. :)

Not having to do laundry for the kids is a huge blessing...but I knew I needed a bit more help. Each of my kids have already been assigned a "night" during the week that they have to help with dinner....setting the table, emptying and loading the dishwasher, cleaning up after dinner with Bryan...and I am so thankful for that help each night; but the dreaded "lunches" loomed large.

Not anymore!

I came up with a system that is working REALLY well. We all sat down and made up a list of lunches that they like to eat and can make on their own:

-Peanut Butter and Jelly  -Salami and Cheese Sandwiches  -Quesadillas  -Bean and Cheese Burritos

-Cup of Noodles  -Bagels with Cream Cheese  -Macaroni and Cheese  -Hummus with Tortilla Chips

-Cheese and Crackers  -Yogurt   -Leftovers from Dinner

I typed up this list and taped it to the inside of the pantry door so they can see it each day and get ideas. Next, I filled up 3 bins: one with different types of granola bars, one with bags of chips, goldfish, pretzels, etc..., and one with small packs of candy and fruit snacks for dessert.

Here is what it looks like....the kids figure out what they want to make from the list for lunch and then pick one thing from each bin to add to their lunch...as well as a piece of fruit and/or string cheese from the fridge. Most of them make their lunches as soon as they get home from school...they want to get the "cream of the crop" from the bins as I only fill the bins once a week! :)

It's working, it's delegating, it's equipping....and the same stuff IS getting done in the amount of time we have. And, slowly but surely, the kids ARE becoming more and more responsible, and that is a sweet blessing to this momma's heart!

I am so thankful to the Lord for the gift of time...and so thankful that, although there seems to be less of it available in this season of life, there is still enough to accomplish what is needed...and there is still times of rest. It's all grace. Glorious grace!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Where do you start when you only post once a month?:)

I am not sure how it happens...how time gets away from me...how hours pass into days and days into weeks and, before I know it, another month has come and gone!

One thing I have always loved about blogging is that it causes me to reflect...reflect on an event, a passage of Scripture, a quote, a trial, a joy. It's a time where I can "be still" and rejoice in "knowing that He is God"as I look at the tapestry He is weaving in my life and the work He has done in the lives of others.

I miss it.

It's not that I don't think, reflect, or ponder....but there is something about taking that extra step of getting it down into words that presses those events and thoughts deeper into my mind, like a child's hand in wet cement. While it may not be necessary, it is certainly fruitful for me! I am so thankful that God chose to communicate with us in words...and that He allows us the privilege of communicating in much the same way. His gifts are never ending.

As I settle into my new "school routine", I am praying that my blogging will increase. When I look back over the past 4 years, many of my blog posts are like "stones of remembrance", reminders of God's mighty hand and faithfulness. And other posts are reminders that His care is just as sweet in the day to day moments as it is in the "life-changing" ones. He is an intimate God! I want to continue to document each gift from God...that my kids and even their kids might, one day, read these posts ( I get them published each year) and rejoice in the great things God has done!

Facebook has been a great way to stay in touch with many people at one time and share tid-bits about life....but, before I know it, those tid-bits have disappeared with a new day....and I have no way of recording them! So, here is a "Facebook" update of our past month with a few other thoughts in between!

The middle of August brought a sweet blessing in the form of a special visit from friends that have become family....and Titus also participated in a paddle board race with kids his own age...getting to meet a paddle board "star", Dave Kalama, in the process. It was like Disneyland for Bryan and Titus!:)



The time between when the Loewen's visit ended and school began is a bit of a blur. There was much to do...school shopping, food shopping, meal planning,  cleaning, and 22 shots (poor kids) to fill the days!  


It's hard to believe we've been in school for  two weeks! Two weeks of a new rhythm and routine, of getting up early and wishing for just a bit more sleep :), of easy meals even if they haven't always been the healthiest, of a house that has been less than clean but better than chaos...but, more than all those things, it's been two weeks of blessing! The kids are having a great time...and I dare say, their momma just might be having even more fun! :) My heart is full of thanksgiving!
                                                      
We are all learning and growing together....the kids are learning how to do their own laundry and make their own lunches....Bryan is learning to live with a wife who is a bit more tired and loving me anyway and serving so much (love you!). We are all having fun reading through "The Gospel Story Bible" and engaging in great conversation around the Word and learning new facts....for instance, Eve didn't get her name until AFTER she and Adam has sinned and were both "cursed" by God. Really! Check out Genesis 3!

I have been reading some great books that I hope to share with you soon...and we've come up with what I think is a pretty great system for putting together school lunches. But that will have to be for another post! Also, I had a request to put a link on the sidebar of my blog of the books that I have read or that I am reading along with my thoughts on the book (or at least a recommendation or not). I love the idea...I just have to figure out how to do it! :) Stay tuned for that one!

I'll close with this quote by J.I. Packer....

"God's chief end, purposed in all that he does, is his glory, and he has so made us that we find our own deepest fulfillment and highest joy in hallowing his name by praise, submission, and service.


Christians get so hung up with the pagan idea (very dishonoring to God, incidentally) that God's will is always unpleasant, so that one is rather a martyr to be doing it, that they hardly at first not
ice how their experience verifies the truth that in Christian living duty and delight go together. But they do! And this will be even clearer in the life to come. To give oneself to hallowing God's name as one's life-task means that living, though never a joyride, will become increasingly a joy road." J. I. Packer









Monday, August 13, 2012

For everything there is a season...

...and a time for every matter under Heaven.  Eccl. 3:1

There have been times in my life where certain seasons felt so long...like a winter that never gave way to spring. And other seasons have flown by so fast that there has been little time for pondering or writing...and sometimes barely enough time to get a picture out of it! These last couple of months, the seasons have felt like the waves of the ocean....as soon as one rolls in, there is another one chasing it down!

June was a season of moving....a season I pray I don't see again for a very long time!!! July brought VBS and a sweet time of getting to serve alongside our dear church family. Nothing binds hearts together better than serving together! Here is a fun snapshot of our VBS week (thanks, Kelly!):

First Baptist Church VBS 2012

July also marked 3 years in a season we never want to end....our adoption. Three years ago, we met our boys for the first time and brought them home 5 days later. We can't imagine life without them...literally. Only pictures remind me that there was once only "four"! :)

The month of July was also a sweet month of reuniting and reconnecting. My grandmother gave us a gift that was truly priceless...the gift of time...time with her, my aunt and cousin, my parents, and all my siblings and their family (minus one brother). That time came by way of a house that comfortably accommodated all 24 of us! So thankful for the family God has given me...and so thankful that one of God's gifts is laughter....we enjoyed plenty of that on our reunion in Sun River, OR. We also enjoyed plenty of sun, games, kayaking, paddle boarding, river tubing, good food, great coffee, rest, and sweet conversations!
I also entered a new season at the end of July....my 33rd season of life. I can only smile and put my hands up trying to speculate what God has in store for me in the coming year. It's already different than what I thought it would be!

You see, by the time August "rolled around", I was neck deep in school curriculum....trying to figure out what I wanted to use to teach my kids as we were headed back into the world of homeschooling. At least, that was my plan. God often uses subtle and not so subtle situations to remind me Who is really in control! Often I live as "master" and forget that I am but a lowly slave serving a mighty Master. I often forget, but I'm not sure why....He told me as plain as day in Isaiah 55:8-9:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."

And, one of my favorites is found in Romans 11:33-36:

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."

This past week, my plans for homeschooling were replaced by what we believe to be God's plans of school...for our six kids plus one...me! On Wednesday, I was hired to be a teacher's assistant at Horizon Christian School (the school our kids finished out the year at when we moved here).  I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I am a bit nervous. How to juggle school and home, homework and housework, dinner and lunches, laundry and ministry. There will be blog posts on these topics, I am sure. But I can assure you that none of them will ever be titled, "How to do it all". I already know that I can't. I already know that there will be days I will feel very weak. But I also know that that is where God wants me to be EVERY day. 

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."  2 Corinthians 12:9 

I am excited, too! I get to go to school with my kids, work with a precious teacher, minister to lots of little souls, and be a part of the community in a new way!

I am not the only one who "got a job" this week....my husband did, too! On Saturday, Bryan was hired to play. Okay...not really...but tomorrow he starts working for "Hood River WaterPlay" on a part-time basis. It will be a busy time for him as he works both at the church and down at the water...but we are so thankful for how the Lord has provided...and that it's a job that Bryan will enjoy...working with people and the water!:)

We are walking into a season of "new and unkown"...but we are walking with a God who is from the beginning and not only knows all...but planned it all!

"The LORD Almighty has sworn, "Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand."    Isaiah 14:24

I am so thankful for the seasons that God gives us, so thankful for the time He allows us. There are so many sweet and precious gifts in this life amidst the sin. So many moments of joy and laughter amidst the pain. To think that this life is the worst it is ever going to get for the believer just blows me away. Heaven is going to be beyond our wildest dreams! No wonder God says in 1 Corinthians 2:9,

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him"

The best season is yet to come!!!

"O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago."    Isaiah 25:1





 






Monday, July 9, 2012

Happy Birthday America!

We have spent the last 2 years in Canada on the 4th of July...so it was fun to be back and part of the "action"!

What was even more special was that it was Samuel and Caleb's FIRST time celebrating the 4th even though we adopted them almost 3 years ago.

We enjoyed the morning parade in our small town...and enjoyed watching the fireworks with church family!







"...I am not 'proud to be an American.' To be precise, I am not proud because I am an American. I am not proud because pride is for those things that we accomplish, those achievements for which we deserve credit. How did I end up an American? I was born one, and I would be a fool to be proud of something for which I can take no credit. My Americanism was granted to me and is a gift, not a status. That does not make me unpatriotic. Patriotism ought not to be a prideful touting of our country’s greatness but rather a joyful exclamation of it. My parade going and grilled-meat eating are not hypocritical. They are expressions of thankfulness. I am thankful...In all, we ought to be humbled on this Independence Day. This American life we lead is an undeserved opportunity, and for most of us, one that we did not choose. We did not find it, neither did we claim the right to it—we were given it as a gift." ~Barnabas Piper, "Thankful and humble to be an American"

Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Reads

Stepping Heavenward - Elizabeth Prentiss

Friday, June 29, 2012

Making a house a home takes time!


It's been a whirlwind of packing, cleaning, more cleaning, painting, loading, unloading, unpacking, sorting, arranging, rearranging, weeding, sweeping, mucking, and  a whole lot of other "ings". :)

The whirlwind has not left....but the chaos is beginning to look a bit more orderly and the house is starting to feel like a home...our home!

Trying to combine two kitchens was a CRAZY endeavor that took 2 days from start to finish....well worth it, though!




The kids have been hard at work pulling weeds. I am so bummed that I forgot to take "before pictures" but just imagine 2 feet of weeds everywhere you see dirt or rocks! I was so blessed by their efforts!

And our newest project today....goats. :) We couldn't pass up free goats to help trim down our back yard...and we couldn't help but laugh at how funny it looked to have 2 goats in the back of our mini-van. :) The stories that mini-van could tell if it could talk!

Meet Hershey and Daisy:




We are so thankful for all those who helped to get us into our home....watching the kids, cleaning, painting, moving loads of boxes and furniture, flowers to make our entrance inviting....God used each person and each situation to bless and encourage our hearts in the midst of the craziness and weariness of moving! Our hearts are full of rejoicing to be in our home...so thankful for God's goodness and grace to undeserving us!



"Oh, how abundant is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You and worked for those who take refuge in You, in the sight of the children of mankind!"  Psalm 31:19

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Little Canadian "Potty" Humor :)

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There is never a quiet moment in the Pichura house....no matter where the kids are! :) I will keep the guilty nameless...but this was too good not to post! And, yes, I am standing outside the bathroom door :)

Pichura Happenings


“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”  -C.S. Lewis


It's amazing how quickly the moments fade into the past and the future becomes reality! I feel like I have so much catching up to do as I look back on the last several weeks of our life. It's been busy...but full of sweet things to highlight and remember!

We have had friends visit, birthday's celebrated, ball games attended, afro's eliminated, school plays enacted, science fair completed, awards bestowed, books read, life lived!

That was the short version...ready for the longer one? :)

What a blessing to have our friends and neighbors from Canada come visit a few weeks ago! The weather was lovely and so was the company!:)

We celebrated Titus' and Caleb's birthday this week...as well as my Dad's birthday! Should I say how old you are, Dad?!:)

The boys team took first place in the regular season this year....play-offs the rest of this week...and then it's back to backyard baseball for them.:)

Speaking of backyards...Lord willing, the boys will be playing in their new "backyard" as soon as Monday. Lots of painting to get done before we officially move in on the weekend! Please pray!:)

Samuel decided it was to time to get rid of his "wool hat" for the summer! He looks great...and older!

Both Faith and Samuel were in the spring school play last week. Samuel was a "gangster weed" (they did the parable of the seed being sown on the 4 soils) and Faith was a girl on the farm. Both had speaking parts and duets! So fun, and they did GREAT!

Micah took 1st place on his science fair project. That was just short of a miracle! :) Way to go buddy!

Tonight the kids had their awards ceremony....what a sweet blessing to see them being used by God in their classrooms. Faith was awarded the "peacemaker" award in her class and Samuel for his respect.

Grace was awarded for "Biblical Connection"...her teacher described her as someone who could "connect the truths of Scripture to whatever subject or situation she was in". What a precious award and an encouragement to our hearts! She was also awarded the "Golden Brush Award" for 5th grade art!:) Not surprised by that one! Micah's award was for "wisdom". His teacher said that he "applies his knowledge of the Bible to classroom situations and really lives what he believes. He's a great mediator and conflict resolver". Thank you, Lord! He also made Honor Roll and got a "President's Education Award"!

Since we're on the subject of "learning"...I've been doing a bit of reading while I exercise on my elliptical. If you are looking for some summer "reads"....these are so worth it!!
                - "The Praying Life" by Paul Miller
                - "Pleasing People: How not to be an approval junkie" by Lou Priolo
                - "Putting Your Past in It's Place" by Stephen Viars
                - "But God...":The two words at the heart of the gospel" by Casey Lute

....and I am SO EXCITED about a book I just picked up to read this summer: "Cleaning House: A mom's 12 month experiment to rid her home of youth entitlement"  by Kay Wills Wyma.

I think that is it!:)

As time continues to fly by....may we all "make the best use of our time" and bring glory to God whether we "eat or drink or whatever we do"!
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Caleb!

What a wonderful day we had! Caleb turned 7 today and we all got to celebrate by going to church! What is more special than sharing your special day with, not only your family...but your whole church family, too! We also got to spend the day with a dear missionary. Dean Kirshner, who works for a really neat ministry, Gospelink, spent the day at our church and the afternoon at our home. He had a precious impact on all of us, especially our boys. God used him, his life, his words, his actions, as a sweet gift, not only to Caleb, but to all of us today!

I wish you all could have sat around our table, this afternoon, while Caleb read his cards and opened his gifts. It was Caleb at his best and he kept us in fits of laughter the whole time. I'll do my best to share:

His Gramps and Nanny sent him a GREAT card describing a "grandson"...Caleb just had a hard time reading some of the words...

"He's charming and he's pleasant. He's whitey and he's funny." We all started giggling because Caleb is not white-y at all...he'll be the first one to tell you he's "brown". The word was "witty" by the way. :)

"He's filled with so much angry..." Yep...busted out laughing again...the word was "energy" not angry.

Then my brother and his wife sent the perfect card for a 7 year old boy:

"Nephew, you're great just the way you are, so don't change a thing....well, your underwear...but other than that, don't change a thing."

Well...the second he read the word "underwear" he couldn't stop giggling....which got us all laughing.

Then there was my parent's card where my mom wrote, "We love you soooo much". Caleb thought the "s" was actually the number "5" and so he read, "I love you 5,000 much". He was totally confused and we were cracking up!

One of the gifts they gave him was a CD. Once he opened it up, he read the title, "Sing Over Me: worship songs and loobalubes. :) The word was "lullabies", but we just might have to rename it forever after that one!:)

That was a glimpse...I know there were other moments of laughter...but I can't get my pea-brain to recall them!

That's Caleb...so full of life, full of laughter, and full of smiles. And those big brown eyes and lashes that go on for miles just makes you want to "smoosh" him in hugs!:)

Caleb is also very sensitive and very sweet. He got an ipod touch for his birthday (thanks to saved up Christmas money that he didn't know I stashed away...and all the money from his relatives). He had NO idea (we told him he was too young for one :)). Well, anyway, I wrapped it in a box that showed baby blocks on the outside (they had been given to my little niece for Christmas). So, as he unwrapped it, I started talking about how fun the blocks would be for Caleb and asked what he would do with them. He was precious. Instead of showing an attitude of ingratitude or irritation over such a "baby" gift...he chose his words carefully and said, "I don't remember wanting them." :) Oh, the look on his face when he realized there were no blocks in his box!:)

Dear Caleb,

My sweet, smiley little bean! It's hard to believe you are 7 years old. I actually felt a bit of sadness wash over me when I realized that I could throw away the "7 candle" because I would not need it anymore! In some ways, you are still the "baby" of the family, but, in other ways, you have grown up so much!

Though one of your favorite phrases is still, " I do not understand" :), I am thankful for the many things you DO understand! I can't believe you will be going into second grade next year (though you did all second grade work but math this year)! God has given you a very smart mind.

He has also given you a love for music and, day in and day out, it's a blessing to hear you sing praises to Him at the top of your little lungs! You may not always have the words right...but God knows your heart...and it gives mom something extra to laugh about!:) I pray that He would continue to give you a heart for music and that Dad and I would have wisdom to know how to best help you pursue it!

You have a giggle that is contagious and an enthusiasm that makes us all smile. My prayer, dear boy of mine, is that God would give you a deep, abiding "enthusiasm" for HIM. That you would grow to love Him with all your heart and that, with your ability to read, God's Word would not just be consonants and vowels strung together...but words that would sink deep into your heart and bear fruit.

In your birthday card from your Sunday School teacher, she shared with you traits and verses about Caleb in the Bible...and her prayer for you to be like Caleb. I would echo her precious thoughts....

Caleb, you tend to be a follower more than a leader, but I pray that God would grow you up to be a courageous leader. That you would follow God no matter what others might be doing. That you would trust Him and obey Him...even if you are the only one!

Happy Birthday, buddy...I love you!

love,
Mom

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sparkle with Wonder

Have you ever wished you could get back some of your childhood wonder, excitement, laughter, and joy? Do you remember those feelings of delight that came so easily years ago but are so hard to come by today?

Am I the only one asking these questions?

I love life, I really do. But I'd also be the first to tell you that there are not many things that make me feel "childlike" again.  When I use the word childlike, I am not referring to immaturity...I am referring to sweetness, to brightness of the eyes and lightness of the heart, to a heart that captures the moments and laughs with glee.

Somewhere along the way, I lost a lot of that. I thought the loss was normal.

You see, the more I live the more aware I am of just how fallen life on earth is. The more I live, the less ignorant I am to the faults of others and the sins in my own heart and life. The more I live, the more opportunities I have to be hurt and to hurt others. The more I live, the more cynical I become and the less I trust.

What I have struggled to realize is that the less I trust, the less I become childlike.  Here is the equation I forgot:

Childlike Joy = Childlike Dependence

True joy, true delight, true lightness of heart and brightness of eyes is impossible without dependence on God. I've lost a lot of my "child-likeness"  because I was depending on ME instead of God without even realizing it. I lost joy, delight, and wonder....because I was trying to find joy, delight, and wonder in myself, my plans, my ingenuity...and it's not to be found there at all, let me tell you!

Here were some more words (from Paul Miller "A Praying Life") that both pricked my conscience and gave me fresh perspective:

"Whenever Jesus starts talking about His relationship with His heavenly Father, Jesus becomes childlike, very dependent. "The Son can do nothing of His own accord" (John 5:19). "I can do nothing on my own" (John 5:30). "I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me" (John 8:28). "The Father who sent me has Himself given me...what to say and what to speak" (John 12:49). Only a child will say, "I only do what I see my Father is doing."


When Jesus tells us to become like little children, He isn't telling us to do anything He isn't already doing. Jesus is, without question, the most dependent human being who ever lived...he prays. And He prays. And He prays. Luke tells us that Jesus "would withdraw to desolate places to pray" (5:16). 


When Jesus tells us that "apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), He is inviting us into His life of a living dependence on His Heavenly Father. When Jesus tells us to believe, He isn't asking us to work up some spiritual energy. He is telling us to realize that...we don't have the resources to do life. When you know that you...can't do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense."

When childlike dependence on our Heavenly Father is the cry of our heart, our hearts will sparkle with wonder, with childlike delight whether we are 30, 40 or 80 years of age!


"How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light."  Psalm 36:7-9





Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Titus!

I have had an empty womb for the last 8 years. It's hard to believe! There was a time when I felt like I was always pregnant and now I can barely remember what it felt like to have a baby inside of me.  I am so thankful for the gift of life...both inside and outside the womb!

Today, my mommy's heart is full and so are my eyes as I thank God for the gift He has given our family in our son Titus! Eight years ago, today, Titus entered the world through a cut in my belly. The scar has since healed beautifully....and our dear boy has grown wonderfully!

Much of life, with 3 toddlers and a newborn, is a blur as I look back on it. I wish I had more memories stored in my head, but I am so thankful for pictures!!! I am not sure if they "jog the memories in my head" or if they actually recreate them :) but, either way, I am so grateful for them!

Titus was my only "summer baby" and I can remember how fun it was to see his barely clothed body sleeping, wiggling, and smiling. It was fun not having to bundle him all up and being able to spend extra time looking at his cute little feet and toes! And summer outfits are just so much fun! :)

Titus was an easy going baby....in fact, when he was 6 weeks old, we took him camping to Lake Tahoe with my parents! He slept under the table in their trailer in a make-shift bed. You have to be easy going to do that! Although, I distinctly remember at least one night where he ended up in his daddy's arms to sleep off his "fidgets".

Maybe that was the night that Titus sucked up all of Bryan's personality?!:)

Titus is not just a daddy's boy....he is his daddy's clone! Well, almost. I guess Bryan was not very opinionated and "stuck in his own way" growing up (and he still isn't now!)...but Titus has an opinion about everything and often lives as though having a different opinion than his is just plain dumb!:) For the most part, he is so easy going...but when he has determined he must have his own way, he often ends up with one sore bum and logs many hours on his bed!:)

Okay...back to being a daddy's boy. Titus has an imagination like his dad ( I was not born with an imagination gene!) Whatever interests him at the moment is not just something he plays with...it's something he becomes. Policeman, Prince Caspian, Firefighter, Sheriff, Drummer, Pastor, etc...there is no half-way with Titus....it's all or nothing.

He has amazing balance like his dad and, therefore, loves (and is REALLY good at) skate boarding and paddle boarding. In fact, Bryan took him paddle boarding yesterday for his birthday and he had a few "onlookers". Of course, when you put a cute 4 foot kid on a 10 foot board, I guess it's going to draw attention. :)

Titus also has his Daddy's humor. There is a lot of laughter in our house because of Bryan....and, with each passing year, Titus keeps us laughing more and more, too!

One "skill" he did not pick up from his Dad is that of drumming and singing. :) He has his Papa Parker to thank for the drumming and Nanny Pichura to thank for the singing, I think! He and Caleb often spend hours each day (yes, hours!) singing and "drumming". Up till now, his drum set as been a collection of helmets, tops of bins, sleeping bags, etc...

Today, that changed!:)

His collective birthday gift from all his relatives was a electronic drum set.  He was SO EXCITED! Thankfully, we caught it on video (see the bottom of this post). In fact, as I sit here typing, he just passed his third hour of drumming and singing this morning!

There is an excitement and "spark" to our house with Titus in it...and we are all so thankful to call him son, brother, and friend!

Dear Titus, 


Happy Birthday Tater-Tot! 

It's hard to believe you are 8 years old. Although, I have to say, you have really "grown-up" before our eyes these past few months. Gone is the little boy and, in his place, is a little young man who uses gel in his hair!:)  But there are still many things that I hope you never grow out of....the hugs, the "I love you's", your sensitive spirit, and your precious smile. 


You used to tell me that you wanted to marry me someday :) And, while you may know now that that is just not possible, I pray that I am and will continue to be a mom who seeks to live for Jesus and be like Jesus....and that, by the grace of God, I can be an example of what you should look for in a wife. 


And, I pray that you will not just follow Dad's example when it comes to skate boarding and paddle boarding...but that you will follow his example when it comes to loving Jesus. Your Dad thinks deeply on the things of the Lord, Titus. He loves Jesus and His Word most of all and THAT is what makes him a great Dad! I pray that his example will encourage you to be the man that God wants you to be!


Much has already been said, in this post,  about the joy that you bring to our home. You bring many giggles, smiles, laughs, and fun to our house!  We love you so much, sweet son!


All my love, 
Mom
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