Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Beloved!


We have spent the past week fighting the flu bug (think fever, not stomach!) and God saw fit to give it to Bryan over the weekend which spilled into Monday and now Tuesday, his birthday.

I was all excited to make him a big dinner with a turkey I got back at Christmas for spending too much money at the grocery store :)...but I have a feeling it's all gonna taste like mashed potatoes to him! Poor guy.

Sometimes "happy" isn't always how you are going to feel on your birthday, huh?!:)

Truth is, as Bryan's wife, today is a very happy day for me. It's one more year God has given me the sweet gift of being married to Bryan. One more year of loving, learning, crying, laughing, holding, cherishing, talking, snuggling, parenting, living....with Bryan.

Psalms says that all of our days are numbered before even one of them came to be. I know that each day is a gift and that tomorrow is not promised...but I am prone to forget. Prone to let one day give way to the next, forgetting to thank God for those that are most dear to me and to see each day for just how special it is. Birthdays often bring much reflection with it which leads to much thanksgiving.

But, when it comes to Bryan, I don't have to reflect too much on one day because I do a lot of reflecting throughout the year!:) How could I not when he is my other half? When God said the two become one, He couldn't have given a more beautiful picture. I can't imagine my life without Bryan because without him I don't feel complete.

The beginning of January, R.C. Sproul Jr. shared some precious thoughts through his blog on the death of his wife. What he shared about the "one flesh" relationship was beautifully true:

"The Bible says that husbands and wives are one flesh. Christian marriage pundits turn this too into “Be nice to each other.” That is, we are told about the importance of open communication. We are encouraged to be as concerned for our spouse as we are for ourselves. We, in rephrasing what God has said so that we might understand it, end up further from the truth. We are not commanded to live as if we were one flesh. Instead we are told that such is the actual truth. The one-flesh reality means that I haven’t just lost the love of my life, but half of me. How could I recognize me, when I am now only half the man I once was? It isn’t quite accurate to say that when she drew her last breath a part of me died. Instead, half of me died.

The good news, however, is the same. Half of me has died, and is with Jesus. Half of me has no melancholy, but only joy. Half of me cries no more. Half of me sins no more. Half of me loves me, and the children, with a perfect love. Mourning, over the coming weeks and months, will move to dancing, as this half of me begins to more deeply believe the blessings I have in my better half."


Happy Birthday, my better half. I pray God gives us many more years of "dancing in the minefields" together! I love you

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ordinary


Ordinary....I think that is how most of us moms would describe our days and the hours that fill up our days. Tim Challies shared a great article last week about "ordinary sermons". Last year I listened to a great message by CJ Mahaney about "ordinary pastors". Almost every week I read about, hear about, or think about how to glorify God in the midst of the ordinary of everyday life: dishes, laundry, school, dinners.

And, sometimes, I find myself wishing for more. What that "more" might look like, I truly have no idea...but I can point out people who seem to have it!:)

"He must increase, but I must decrease". Seems to me, John the Baptist had it right. He didn't crave for more. In fact, he wanted less. He desired ordinary so that Jesus could be seen for Who He is...extraordinary!

"We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

A jar of clay was as ordinary as a jar comes in those days. It was all about what was put into the jar that made it of any value. Jesus is the beauty that shines in the ordinary.

"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-11


Paul is exhorting us to be content with weaknesses and to boast in the ordinary...because, in doing so, we are putting the power of God on display in our lives. When we live "ordinary lives", what stands out is not our exceptional speaking ability, our beautiful home, our winsome personality, or our culinary expertise. What stands out is God's grace in the midst of our sin, God's peace in the midst of a painful trial, God's hope when the future looks dark, God's joy instead of complaint at the unfair, and God's faithfulness when others have failed.

This year, may we boast in the ordinary so that we may exalt the God Who is extraordinary!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Loose Ends


"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
I Peter 1:13


So, for the first time in 8 years I am not doing a read through the Bible program. I felt like the Lord was telling me to slow down and dig deep into a book of the Bible instead of all 66. Actually, Lord willing, I'll get through 12 books this year (using a study guide for each book). I started with 1 Peter and I am already amazed at how I can read the same chapters over and over and they come alive each and every time! I guess I shouldn't be amazed...God did say that His Word is "living and active", didn't He?!:)

I love 1 Peter 1:13. It really made me think! I know just how important my mind is...I know how quickly my thoughts can lead the rest of me astray when I don't take them captive and renew them with the Word of God. But I was intrigued by what Peter meant when he said to "prepare your mind for action". The footnotes in my MacArthur Study Bible were so helpful:

"Some translations render this, "Gird up the loins of your mind" - the ancient practice of gathering up one's robes when needing to move in a hurry; here, it is metaphorically applied to one's thought process. The meaning is to pull in all the loose ends of one's thinking, by rejecting the hindrances of the world and focusing on the future grace of God (cf. Eph. 6:14; Col. 3:2).

It was a great word picture for me. I know that God is sovereign. I know that He rules and reigns over ever detail of my day. I know that He will accomplish all the He purposes to do...for my good and His glory. I know that He uses pain to sanctify me. He is awesome. Yet, I often have "loose ends" dangling about me. Loose ends of fear, worry, doubt, complaint, questioning...When will Bryan get another job? How long will it take? What if it takes a long time? I'm sick of packing boxes! Why is this part of Your plan for us God? This doesn't seem fair.

And I trip over those loose ends and the only action I am good for is rolling around on the floor!:) What do I do with all those "loose ends"? I grab them all together and cut them off with the scissors of "hope". God says to "set (my) hope fully on the grace that will be brought to (me) at the revelation of Jesus Christ". And with those loose ends gone, I am able to properly prepare my mind for action...for the battles that rage each and every day...for walking in sweet, beautiful hope! And if, for even one minute, I stop thinking sober-minded and start thinking that my "loose ends" are too "important" to cut off, I have only to read Romans 5:1-5 and I can't help but "throw aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles"(Heb. 12:1)...those loose ends...and run the race marked out for me...in hope, in joy,and in love with Jesus!

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."


(and, if you just found yourself starting to sing those verses as you read them, it might be because you listen to "Seeds Family Worship"...these verses are on their latest album :))

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Birthday Gift From God!


Today our daughter Faith turned 9 years old! There was much about this day that she already knew about or had planned in advance. Here is an example of her planning:

Yesterday she asked me, "Mom are you going to decorate the house for my birthday after I go to bed or are you going to send me to my room sometime on my birthday so you can decorate?" :) That was my dear daughter giving me a not so subtle hint that she wanted decorations! She also gave her brothers and sister a not so subtle hint when she, point blank, asked them yesterday when they were going to make her birthday card!!!:) If you know Faith at all, you know that sounds just like her!
But there was also something that none of us could have planned and that only God could give....SNOW! My heart woke up praising the Lord when I saw that the snow that had started to fall the night before was still there...all 3 inches of it!

The kids had a fun morning playing in and with the snow and we had an interesting experience at the movies in the afternoon!:) We thought it would be fun, in honor of Faith's birthday, to take everyone (including Uncle Paul and his girlfriend Sarah that came to visit!) to our little downtown movie theater to see "The Muppets". We bought our $3.50 movie tickets (gotta love buying in bulk!) and sat down for the show. Half way through the movie (which is shaping up to be a real winner!!) the screen went blank... I guess the reel of film didn't "reel" so well and the rest is history. The blessing: we left the theater with two free tickets per person. And, being on the tight budget that we are right now, that seemed like a pretty good deal in the end!:) I guess we'll be heading back to Clova Cinemas for "round two" this week. We have to know what happens to the muppets!:)

We ended the evening with a very special meal of steak (thanks to some friends who gave us part of a cow!) and a very fun birthday cake. My sister-in-law made this Rainbow Birthday Cake for my niece a couple of years ago and I knew that it was the perfect cake for Faith and her bright personality!


Dear Faith,

One phrase pops into my head immediately when I think about you. You are "full of life and live life to the fullest". Whatever you set your mind to do, you do it with flare! I think of all the pictures I have of you (even when you were a toddler) trying on clothes, hats, sunglasses, bracelets, purses...you always have a pose for each one....an arm in the air, you head tilted to the side, with a twinkle of mischief on your face.

You are a character! And you love to play the part of other characters. Just last week I heard an "English accent" coming from the back of the Suburban and, sure enough, it was you!:) Your love for "Anne of Green Gables" has put many "dramatic" moments and sayings into your head and, therefore, into our home. And your love for reading has given you a vast knowledge of words through which you create the most amazing sentences. I can easily forget that I am talking to a 3rd grader! Of course, there are times that your use of words creates some very hysterical speech...and we all get to laugh...not at you, but with you. The Bible says that "a joyful heart is good medicine". You are very good medicine in the Pichura home my sweet, funny Faith!

Faith, many people say that you and I are alike, not just in the way we look but the way we act. I think they might be right.:) But that also means that we have a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses. Our struggle with sin might be along the same lines. As a result, I am thankful to know how better to shepherd you, pray for you, and encourage you.

We can both be pretty selfish. We have desires that we want accomplished and can lose sight of others as we seek to accomplish them. And, we can also lose sight of loving and serving Jesus above all. When we do that, we sin against Jesus and hurt those around us. BUT, when we "walk by the Spirit" it can be a beautiful thing, too! When we put all our passion and desires into loving Jesus, it overflows into loving others and focusing on serving others. The joy that Jesus puts in our hearts and the excitement for life that comes from Him is a very contagious gift that we can spread to those around us!

Love Bug, I pray that you would walk by your name...that you would walk by faith in Jesus Christ all the days of your life. Hebrews says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Every day of your life you are taking one step after another and you will never fully know what that next step looks like until after you have taken it. Why? Because God's ways are not our ways. Your daddy and I have learned that well over the last 9 years of your life and even before that. Sometimes it can be scary not knowing what God is doing. But, it's only scary if you don't walk by faith. Because, if you are walking in faith (which is a gift from God) then you have hope. Hope in Who God is, hope in that He always keeps His promises, hope in that He never lies and always does what is best for you. And God says that that hope will NEVER disappoint you because He has poured His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. God loves you. You never have anything to be afraid of...ever!

I pray that you will put your faith in Him...because you will find that He is FAITHful...so very faithful!

Your Daddy and I love you so very much. We are so thankful that God entrusted you to us. We look forward with excitement this year at the plans God has for you and the laughter that will fill our home because you are in it!

All my love,
Mom

Friday, January 13, 2012

Search and Inquire Carefully


I am studying 1 Peter and have been so blessed by the beautiful truths about our salvation, suffering, and the hope that we have in Christ! I am so thankful that His Word is living and active...that it pierces my heart!

1 Peter 1:10-12:

"Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look."


This is a passage that pierced my heart and brought conviction. Prophets searched and inquired carefully over the Words of God as they yearned for, looked for, and sought to understand the salvation of God, through faith, in the promised coming of the Messiah. Their ministry would find it's fulfillment in the cross.

They saw in part, yet we see, in many ways, the full glorious picture of God's redeeming work in the Bible! And that is where the conviction comes in. How often do I take for granted the "Words of Life"? How often do I forsake meditating, studying, and searching carefully in His Word because my life is consumed with the things that are temporal?

Maybe this is a bit bold to say, but I can't help but wondering if some of our apathy comes from not having a good grasp of Who God is...not knowing Him as we ought...and what we don't know we often don't get excited about.

The prophets looked forward with anticipation, recognizing that much of what they proclaimed would be fulfilled after their death...truths that even the angels desired to look into. They served us in their careful study.

The cry of my heart is to have the same mindset...to love God with all my heart and, as a result, to love His Word and study it carefully. And through that love and that study, I might serve others as I encourage them with the Word!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

All Roads Lead To The Cross


Bryan had the blessing of serving communion at the church we are fellowshipping at, and he shared something that had me pondering well beyond the end of the service. He talked about the fact that, when someone get's lost in the "wilderness" one thing they can do as they try to find their way out is to go to the highest point to try to get a "lay of the land" and see where they are in relation to everything else.

And, as a believer, as we look at the "lay of the land" in history, in the world, and in our own lives we will see that all roads lead to the cross. All roads find completion in the Savior.

It had me confessing and repenting as I sat in the seat...because I realized that, many times, all the roads in my life do not lead to the cross. Some of my roads lead straight back to me...to my goals, my desires, my plans, my glory.

I was convicted about the many "roads" I take each day...and yet take them with no thought to the gospel. How many times do I wash dishes and never contemplate how to glorify God in doing them? How many times to I clean my home in a way that makes the gospel shine bright...not just my floors? How many times does anger flare up in my own heart to a situation, or at my kids or husband when it doesn't go my way? My roads often lead back to me instead of to the cross.

What joy there is in repenting! What joy there is in walking anew! What joy there is in fixing our eyes on the cross...the only perspective in life that is truly real! And, what joy there is in the encouragement of God's Word and the words of fellow believers!

I was reading Kimiko's (my sister-in-law)blog tonight and the article she linked to could not have been more suited for my ponderings today! It was a sweet gift from God...and I thought you might like to "unwrap" and read it, too! It was posted on the "Desiring God Blog" back in November:

Gospel-Saturated Dish-Washing and Diaper-Changing

by David Mathis

In his new book,Gospel Wakefulness, Jared Wilson talks about how all of life is relevant for mission. From drinking coffee to changing diapers, from cutting the grass to washing dishes — all of life can be lived to the glory of God by those who have been awakened to the gospel of our exhaustively sovereign Savior.

He writes,

One of the attendant aims of missional evangelicalism is to challenge the compartmentalizing of the Christian faith that we see within the Western church. We are fantastic at itemizing our schedules, and even if we don't assign God a very large bracket, we are constantly remorseful that we "haven't made much time for him." While such compartmentalizing — as if "time with God" can or should be hermetically sealed off from everything else — is a natural symptom of our culture and environment, it also reflects a bad theology.

The truth is, the day does not belong to us. It is not our day to do with as we please. We serve a sovereign God. He created the end from the beginning, knows our future exhaustively, and is firmly in control. He made our days and they belong to him. As such, isn't it a bit arrogant to begin with the idea that each day is ours and then worry about fitting God in? Instead, we should work at the humble awe of knowing all of our moments, every millisecond, waking or sleeping, are perfectly accounted for within the economy of heaven.

Let us stake the flag of Christ's kingdom into the soil of our first waking moment. Drink your coffee when you get up, of course, but drink it to the glory of God. Then carry on in this way all day, no matter the task, be it menial or notable, so that each day may be a living prayer that God's will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is what it means to live a gospel-saturated life: it means being so conscious of the greatness of the gospel that changing diapers or cutting the grass is as much an act of worship as singing a praise chorus in a church service….

Jesus Christ is Lord over my heart, and he is Lord over my hands, and he is Lord over what I do with these hands, and he is Lord over what I say in my heart while I'm doing it. In submitting to the lordship of Christ, then, I do not treat washing dishes as wasting time I could be spending doing something "meaningful," but rather as a service to those who eat in my home, as a service to those who would have to wash the dishes if I did not, and as an offering of thanksgiving to God that I have food to eat, dishes to eat it on, and running water inside my home to clean with.

To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, there is not a square inch of our lives that is not claimed by God and counterclaimed by ourselves. If we believe God is sovereign, however, we will see all of life as mission and be led to submit the square inches we otherwise hold so tightly to the Maker of inches and hands."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's been 14 years!


Today, Bryan and I celebrate our 14th Anniversary as husband and wife. In fact, 14 years ago to the minute I was standing hand in hand with Bryan in the midst of our wedding ceremony!

If you had told me on the day of our wedding that, a decade later, I would love Bryan more than I did at that very moment...I might have strongly disagreed with you. I didn't think it was possible.

By the grace of God, it's not only possible, but it has been a precious reality for us. As God continues to sanctify us and grow us in our love for Him, through His great mercy, it overflows into a deeper, sweeter love for each other. It is a beautiful mystery. The more we abide in Christ...the sweeter the fruit in all the other areas of our lives!

In honor of our 14 years, I thought I would list 14 articles/quotes/writings that I have posted on my blog in the last couple of years that have enriched our marriage and encouraged our hearts!

1)"She asks not how her behavior may please a stranger or how another's judgment may approve her conduct; let her beloved be content and she is glad." Spurgeon...and some thoughts on the priority of truly listening to your husband.

2)How Sweet It Is Some thoughts on marriage, sex, and some good book resources!

3)"I have found the one whom my soul loves." Song of Solomon 3:4

4)Lichen, Fungus, Algae and Marriage...you'll have to read the post to find out how those things go together!:) Scroll down a bit and you'll find the section on Lichen!


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

6)Favorite marriage book of 2011:What Did You Expect by Paul Tripp...read a piece of it here!

7)"It is no wonder if so many years, so many endearments, so many obligations have produced such an uncommon effect, that by long habit, it is almost impossible for me to draw a breath, in which you are not involved." John Newton

8)Tim Challies highlighted a GREAT article last year on how one wife's submission to her husband just might not look the exact same as another wife's.

9)Almost 2 years ago, John Piper took a leave from his pulpit to work on his marriage. It was a sobering reminder and I was and continue to be thankful for his example in this regards.

10)Breathing the Air of Grace...in our marriage

11)"False Messages" the e-book on sex written by Aileen Challies. Her book blessed many ladies that I know, including myself. You can still download it, and read it, if you haven't already!

12)A Father's Day tribute to my handsome husband!

13)One sinner praying for another sinner...it can bring about "A Convicting Chuckle" when you think about it!:)

14)“A wife if she is very generous may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the other eighty percent and both of them will be happy.” Elisabeth Elliots husband, Lars

Monday, January 2, 2012

Looking Back Before I Look Forward


Okay, so I guess if you take my title literally, I am doing the opposite of what the apostle Paul said when he penned the words, "Forgetting what lies behind and pressing forward to what lies ahead...". But, for this post, my primary reason for looking back is to document, largely by picture, what has been happening in the Pichura Home the last few weeks! (So, get ready for a bunch of "backdated" posts!)

Having said that, as we (the Pichura Family) look into the year 2012, it is filled with the unknown in every way. And, when I dwell on a future that is uncertain, my heart starts to beat a little bit faster and fear creeps in, imoblizing the rest of my body. Then, if I give way to that fear, worry starts to beat stronger than my own heart and my body, once "frozen", jumps into action. But, it's not the kind of action that pleases God. It not an active waiting on HIM...it's an action fueled by my own desire for control, my own desire to write the pages of our life so that it doesn't look so scary. It's an action fueled by pride and selfishness, not trust and dependence.

In those moments, the Lord is so gracious to pull my eyes and heart upward. To look to Him and His promises, and to take my thoughts captive so that I cling to those promises! But, He has also turned my head to look backwards. He has reminded me to remember...to remember His faithfulness in the past! And, as I look back on the seasons of life that He has brought us through...I find myself remembering and rejoicing. Praising the Lord for the dark valleys He has brought us through as well as the times of dancing and dreams come true. He has preserved us and sustained us through it all and I know He will continue to! The Lord does "give and take away" as Job said...but, I think the key to that verse is, "BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD".

None of us truly know what the year 2012 holds...there will be aspects in all of our lives in which the Lord both gives and takes away...but that is not where He wants any of our focus to be...He wants our focus, our thoughts, our actions, and our words to be all about blessing His name.

So, before we set our sights on the 2012...maybe it's not a bad idea to take a few minutes to look back...and, as you did, don't be surprised if you find yourself praising the Lord before you know it!:)

"Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty Heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!" Psalm 150:1-2,6