Friday, December 30, 2016

When Death Feels Hopeless

My grandma died this week.

As far as we know, she died without Jesus.

The news of her death brought immediate heartache, pain and tears....and a genuine feeling of hopelessness. The weight of "it's too late" pressed down and left a numbness in it's place. A void that can't easily be filled. An unsettledness that drives words away and leaves a loud silence.

What hope is there in the knowledge that one I have loved so dearly may forever be separated from God? How could mourning and grieving ever give way to peace, let alone joy, when I consider my grandma and her soul?

These are questions I have been asking myself.

And as I contemplated the Word of God, as I read some wise thoughts from others*, and as I began to preach truth to myself...I was reminded that hope and joy and peace are never found by looking horizontally at others. True hope and joy and peace only come from one Source. They come from God. They come from fixing our eyes on His character and His truth. "Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always." (I Chron. 16:11) Only when I start there, can I see the horizontal through a proper lens and, only then, can I find hope in what seems hopeless, joy in the midst of pain, and peace where there seems to be no peace.

Here are just a few of the truths that are helping me to see this situation through a Biblical lens:

God is good: "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever." Psalm 107:1

God always does what is right: "The Lord is righteous in all His ways and gracious in all His acts." Psalm 145:17

God's plans have been ordained before time began: " I have planned, so it will be; as I have purposed it, so it will happen." Isaiah 14:24

God's ways are not my ways: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways." This is the Lord's declaration. "For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

God is compassionate and merciful: "Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the Lord is a just God. Happy are all who wait patiently for Him." Isaiah 30:18

God is enough: "I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him." Lamentations 3:24

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Parts I Leave Out

"Lord, be gracious to us! We wait for You. Be our strength every morning and our salvation in time of trouble."  Isaiah 33:2

I read this passage last night and realized how often, in my own life, I find myself leaving out the middle section of that verse as I go about life. 

Oh, I want the Lord to be gracious to me. I desperately need His undeserved favor and kindness. I know there is no hope without His grace in my life...but do I wait for Him? Do I seek to "be still, and know that He is God"? Do I patiently fix my eyes on the Lord and look to Him with joyful expectation...even when the Lord sees fit, in His grace, to withhold what I desire for days, weeks, months, or even years? Or do I try to manipulate situations to achieve the outcome I am looking for? Do I grumble and complain and seek to drag others into my misery or worse, blame them? Do I doubt the goodness of God and profane the very name that gave me life instead of clinging to Him because He is my life and length of days?

And then there is the Lord's salvation. How my heart rejoices that the Lord is my salvation in times of trouble! There is nothing that will ever come to me that has not first gone through His mighty hands. His salvation has ransomed my life and keeps me. With such a great salvation, you would think there would never be a moment's worry or fear about the details of daily life. After all, God's grace is enough and His Word tells us it's sufficient at all times, in all things, for all that we need (2 Cor. 9:8)...but, how often do I show my very doubt of that belief when I do not seek Him and cry out for His strength each and every day? How often do my feet fly out of bed with thoughts of how much I need to do, how overwhelmed I'm already feeling, and how full the day at hand will be? Somewhere, in those moments, I have forgotten to take my thoughts captive to obey Christ, to cling to His Word, and renew my mind with His thoughts. For He says that my days are already numbered and ordered...even down to the good works He has planned for me to do. His Word reminds me that His strength is perfected in my weakness. His truth beckons my heart to not worry about anything but pray and give thanks in all things. 
What amazing grace! What a great salvation is ours! May our lips declare both those truths, while not neglecting the precious commands to wait on the Lord and find our daily strength in His almighty hands. May we be women who do not have imaginary holes in our Bibles because of the parts we have left out but may we be those who obey and cling to the whole counsel of God's Word and may His decrees be our delight and our counselors! (Psalm 119:24)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Three Desires for all Six Kids

This fall, our pastor started preaching through the book of Philippians. I am so thankful for expostional preaching and the gift it is to "make yourself at home" in a meditate, to consider, to think through and to apply.

As I thought on Philippians 1:25-26, I found my mom's heart being tugged: 

"Since I (Paul) am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your advancement and joy in the faith, so that, because of me, your confidence may grow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again." 

While I do not know how many days the Lord has "written in His book" that I should live here on this earth, I do know that every day I wake up is a new day that I am "remaining and continuing" on with my family. Paul's purpose, in these verse,  focused on three specific desires he had for his "spiritual children" and they are three pursuits that I want to focus on, as well, in regards to my own children: 

1) Seek the advancement of their faith

2) Seek to encourage their joy in the faith

3) Seek their growth of confidence in Christ Jesus

Bryan nor I can save our children, but we are called to train them up in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). We are called to love the Lord and to teach our children Who He is and what He has done (Deut. 6). We have a great responsibility of pointing them to Christ, the only source of salvation, hope and eternal life, through times of formal teaching (family worship) and informal times (everyday talk). Our greatest "weapon" in our pursuit to "advance their faith", though, is prayer. Challies has a GREAT article  on 18 ways to pray for unbelievers (and that would include our unbelieving children)!  

Another way I can follow Paul's example is by my own personal pursuit of joy. That my own heart would overflow with the joy of the Lord in such a way that my kids see and savor Christ and find their treasure in Him. As Bryan puts it, "Christ is the treasure that turns all other treasures to trash." I love Habakkuk 3:17-18: 

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation." 

This rejoicing, this joy springs from a truth that we must believe by faith and cling to in hope: that God is enough. That He is all I need no matter what may befall my day, my week, my year. And what He has ordained is good because He is good and therefore I can rejoice! May I live that way before my children and may my example encourage and advance their own joy in the faith! 

Lastly, I was reminded that I must live in such a way that my own confidence in Christ grows my kids confidence in Christ. As they see me trust in the character of our great God, proclaim the work that Christ has done on the cross on our behalf and, through the Holy Spirit,  wait with hopeful expectation for the return of our King; my prayer is that it will cause them to persevere and grow strong in their own faith, confident that God will complete every good work He has begun.  May my lips echo the words of Hebrews 10:35-39: 

"So don't throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God's will, you may receive what was promised. For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain faith." 
How long the Lord has my feet walking upon this earth, I do not know...but I want to be found faithful in each of those steps, by God's grace. May we moms be those who "do not focus on what is seen, but what is unseen" (2 Cor. 4:18a) and may we realize the beautiful stewardship we have of pointing our kids to Christ, modeling for them that there is no greater joy than to know the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and encouraging them in the character of our great God so that they may approach Him with full confidence and receive mercy and find grace to help in every time of need (Hebrews 4:16)! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

As I look back on the landscape of social media these past couple of days, believe it or not, it's a song that comes to mind as the prayer of my heart:

O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemer's Praise!

Not the praises (or woes) of Hillary

Nor the praises (or woes) of Trump

Not the song of self-righteousness

Nor the judgement given through your opinion

Not the scorn of a people group

Nor the fear of the future

The believer is called to proclaim, to herald, to sing, to shout, to magnify, to exalt our great Redeemer and His great salvation. A great salvation that can:

Save Hillary

Save Trump

Save the self-righteous

Save those weighed down by unfair judgements

Save the scorned and the scorner

Save unto eternal life those who fear the future and have put their hope in man

I beg those of you who are "hid in Christ" to examine yourselves, to make sure that the messages you are proclaiming in the lunchroom, at the coffee shop, on Facebook, Twitter, and the blogs you write are words that promote the fame of the Lord, that lift the eyes of those around you off of each other and onto the One who sits on His throne, Who does what He pleases in all perfection and goodness, Who will, one day, wipe away every tear and make all things right for those who love Him, Who is the definition of hope and true peace.

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."  I Timothy 1:17

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Breaking News: Tranquility is Possible Without a Trip to the Tropics!

Disturbance: an interruption of a settled and peaceful condition

I don't know about you, but there are many things in life that create disturbances. And often, the "things" that create disturbances are not inanimate objects, but real living breathing people. It might be a neighbor, a boss, a child, a friend, or even a spouse. After all, we are sinful people rubbing shoulders with other sinful people on a daily, even hourly, basis and the result is often...yep, disturbances.  In my flesh, those disturbances often result in frustration, impatience, irritation, anger, rants, grumbling, complaining, and even bitterness. Yikes! 

Tranquil: free from disturbance

But, if I am walking in the Spirit, those disturbances can actually yield the fruit of tranquility, quietness of heart, and godliness. I'm not kidding! Read it for yourself: 

"First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."  I Timothy 2:1-2

How can I be tranquil - free from disturbance -  in a world that is full of disturbances?

Petitions and prayers. 

Petitions and prayers full of intercession and thanksgiving. 

Petitions and prayers full of intercession and thanksgiving for EVERYONE. 

Even the lady who just cut you off and almost caused an accident. Maybe she just received bad news and is rushing to the hospital. Or maybe she's foolishly on her phone, not paying attention...something that could get herself and others killed and permanently separated from Christ forever. Pray. 

Even for the neighbor who yells at your kids when they play outside, though his kids are free to roam and play wherever. He has a soul. Pray.

Even for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There is no heart too hard or corrupt that the Maker of all hearts cannot reach down and soften, redeem, and restore through the blood of Jesus. Pray. 

Even for that boss who is demeaning and arrogant and seems to deserve all the back-biting and gossip that is spread about him. He needs to know the Master so he can learn what it means to lead through serving. Pray. 

As you lift these people up to the Lord in prayer, as you come before the only One who can save hearts and the only One who can sanctify those hearts...all the frustration, irritation, anger and complaining, that can so easily consume you, lifts as well. Because, through those prayers, you have left the disturbances you face in the mighty hands of God, thankful for the privilege of having open access to the Sovereign of the universe. Your eyes are off the disturbance and fixed on the Deliverer! 

And without sitting under one palm tree, soaking up one ray of sun, or sipping on one coconut...your heart is tranquil once again...rejoicing under the shadow of His wings, basking in the work of the Son, and drinking deeply from rivers of living water. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Heart is Won

Apart from love for Christ, my kids will, at best, be nothing more than Pharisees. Outwardly conforming to the rules while their hearts are far from Him.

I so want the Lord to save them, so want their hearts to fall in love with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Yet, I am reminded how often I focus on their external behavior while leaving their hearts untouched.

I can't save my kids...only the Lord can raise the dead to life, open blind eyes to see His grace, and transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh....but I do want to be faithful to build a love for Him in their hearts. I want them to see His glory and mercy and beauty and faithfulness and majesty. I want them to see the "good news" for what it is: good, great, mind-blowing...the best news they will ever hear.

I'm reading a super practical, super helpful book by Jack Klumpenhower called "Show Them Jesus" and he says this in chapter 4:

"Our sins are all paid for - not just the few sins we notice but the whole ugly heart that secretly loves them. All forgiven.

The good news takes us daily from despair to astonished laughter. With relief in our eyes we look at the man who's done all this for us. And who do we see? We see the strongest yet gentlest, most regal and yet most humble person imaginable. Most of all, we see the kind of lover we've never known before. Jesus's love for us is pure love. It has nothing to do with us being the least bit lovely. If it did, we'd feel pressure to keep up whatever earned his love. But no, "if we are faithless, he remains faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13). He loves us forever. No payback needed. No conditions. No guilt trips. We are loved, period. 

And where that is believed, the heart is won." 

True obedience from the heart results from an overflow of love, not duty.

How lovely is Jesus to you? How lovely is He to your children?

"How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of Hosts. I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God." Psalm 84:1-2

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Yummy Illustration!

I have been working on my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow and came across this fantastic illustration:
"Ask the children if they have ever helped bake a cake. There are a lot of ingredients that go into making a cake, but if you were to eat salt, vanilla extract, or oil by themselves they would probably not taste yummy. But if you don't put them into a cake, it will not taste the way it should. Obedience is like this. Sometimes we are asked to do things that, by themselves, don't seem to make sense. But we must be obedient and follow all the directions that God and our parents give us. In the end, we will see that is was for our good." *
I don't know about you, but this is not just something for our kids to hear...we need to hear it, too!
God calls us to faithful obedience as we trust His Word and His character...even when we can't see or do not understand the circumstance He has put us in or what He is calling us to do. 
What a blessing that God has given us a plethora of Biblical examples of men and women, a great cloud of witnesses as Hebrews 12:1 tells us, who were called to obey even though it did not make sense to them:
Abraham and Isaac
Joshua and Jericho
Gideon and the 300 men for battle
Ruth with Boaz
Jonah and Nineveh
Elijah and the alter with the prophets of name a few.
Their obedience was not predicated on WHAT the knew but WHO they knew. What hope and encouragement they give to our weary hearts as we seek to faithfully fix our eyes on the Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. He, too, faced the bitterness of the cross, the beatings, the scorn, and, ultimately, the wrath of His Father God, for the joy and sweetness of redeeming a people for Himself.
Much to think on, much to rejoice in!
Tomorrow, my Sunday School kids will taste salt and flour, by themselves, and the looks on their faces just might be picture-worthy. But they will also taste the results of those, and other ingredients, mixed together to form a yummy cake. My prayer is that they (along with the rest of us) will begin to grasp the beauty of God's sovereignty in all of life's events and begin to see the sweet blessing and fruit that comes out of faithful obedience to the One who is forever and always faithful! 
"We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." I Thess. 5:23-24
*Generations of Grace

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Purpose in Homeschooling (and's not to go crazy!)


What do you think when you read that word? 

Do you picture girls in matching dresses and boys in jean overalls? 

Do you think the words “weird and awkward” in your head? 

Or maybe you actually know some families that homeschool and they look normal and the only “weird and awkward” coming from them is the same “weird and awkward” you experience in your own home as your kids grow from babes to adulthood. But, when you think about homeschooling, you’re quick to think, “I could never do that!”

That was all of the above. And, if I’m totally honest, it’s still me some days! 

The stereotypes still die hard. There is always that niggle of concern that I’m making my kids weird and, almost daily, I have to take my thoughts of “I can’t do this!” captive to the truths of God’s Word that His grace is sufficient! 

We are getting ready to embark on our second year of homeschooling since being in Canada ( I had homeschooled several years ago before the kids went to Christian school). Bryan and I believe this is the road God has marked out for us in this season of life. That is not to say that it’s the road for everybody else or anybody else. It’s our road. Yours might be public school or private school. For us, we don’t see homeschooling as they only way or the right way...just the best way for us for now. So, whatever you do, just be convinced it’s what God has called your family to...and then walk that road faithfully and humbly before the Lord. 

And as we seek to walk faithfully and humbly before the Lord, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of our purpose in all of life, whatever road we are walking: to glorify God. I love how Tim Challies puts it in his book Do More Better, “You need to structure and organize your life so that you can do the maximum good for others and thus bring the maximum glory to God.”

I was also encouraged last year to write down our specific purpose in homeschooling. A goal that I could be reminded of when the going gets tough and I want to run out of the house :) . After thought and prayerful consideration, we have a written goal along with some verses I want to memorize to encourage my heart in moments of weariness. While our specific goal might not fit your home life...the verses apply to all of us, I figured I’d share...and maybe it just might encourage you to write down some of your own (I’d love to hear your own goals and verses in the comments!).

Pichura Purpose in Homeschooling:

“To create flexibility in our daily schedule to minister to those around us, treasuring the fleeting years we have as a family of 8, as we seek to instill a Biblical worldview lens and a strong work ethic while building camaraderie, unity, and sweet memories as a family.” 

(Note to you all....this is the goal. Given that all 8 of us are sinners living under the same roof, please do not be shocked if you show up to our house and see the opposite taking place at any given moment...just pray for us!;) )

Prayers of this mama’s heart: 

“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words settle like dew, like gentle rain on new grass and showers on tender plants. For I will proclaim the Lord’s name. Declare the greatness of our God.”  Deut. 32:2-3

“And we exhort you brothers (that includes mothers!): warn those who are lazy, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone...Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 
I Thessalonians 5:14,16-17

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

“A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.” Proverbs 24:3-4

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Who Do I Think I Am?

I am reading a new book by Jen Wilkin entitled " None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us (and why that's a good thing)". (If you have not read her first book "Women of the Word", I highly recommend that one, as well!)

I love books that highlight the character of God! As I read, I truly find myself standing in awe of our great God and find myself falling deeper in love with Him. In a world that says there is no God and in a church-age that seems to often minimize the holiness and awesomeness of God and, instead, exalt man....we need to be constantly reminded about who God really is as He has revealed Himself in His Word, the Bible.

One of the attributes Jen highlights is God's omniscience. She defines it as "....limitless in his knowledge. He knows all things, not because he has learned them, but because he is their origin. God does not learn. Learning implies change, and as we've already considered, he is unchanging."

I've known that to be true and have greatly rejoiced in the fact that God knows all things. What I didn't take time to consider until reading this chapter was just how much I often live seeking to be omniscient myself. If you had asked me a month ago if I thought I could be omniscient I would have laughed at you and said, "No way! That's an attribute for God alone and it would be blasphemy to think I could have a part in that!" And yet, here I sit, convicted by my own pursuit to control, to know more and more, to figure out the future,  and to stretch beyond the here and now.

Jen says it this way throughout the pages of chapter 8:

"Whatever tomorrow holds, we can be certain that its contents will raise as many questions as they will answers. We can trust God to manage the future without our help. It is none of our business."

"Rather than obsessing over the future, learn contentment in your God-ordained innocence of what is to come....This will mean less time chasing curiosities online and more time mining the treasure in Scripture. It will mean leaving the knowledge of the future into the hands of the God who is already there. It will mean minding our own business instead of meddling. Our comfort lies not in holding all knowledge, but in trusting the One who does." 

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deut. 29:29)

"Because God holds all knowledge, we don't have to. Our lives are filled with questions awaiting answers, but not so our omniscient God. He does not suffer the anxiety of not-knowing that plagues our days. He has no cause for worry, for all is certainty to him. We live in the darkness of partial and incomplete knowledge, but to him the darkness is as light. No fact conceals itself from his eyes or buries itself in the shifting shadows of time. We are free to spend our years learning in healthy ways, seeking to expand our understanding humbly, in such a way that we are transformed not into smarty-pants but into servants." 

Psalm 139:16 says, "Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began." Verse 5 says that we are "encircled" by God and His hand is on us. His grace is sufficient for TODAY. His comfort brings us the joy we need for TODAY. His mercies are new TODAY. The Lord has made and called us to rejoice in TODAY.

TOMORROW is none of my business. And that is a very good thing!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Reflection Ministry

Sometimes, as I read the Bible,  chapter breakdowns and even the inserted "titles" along the way can really throw me off. It's amazing how quick my mind can allow those "breaks" to isolate what is being said from what was said and then stop short of what will be said that further explains what I just read! 

Have I lost you yet? :)

2 Corinthians 3 and 4 contain one of those types of passages...and I'm so thankful the Lord stopped me from being a lazy student of the Word and reminded me to slow down and read the full context. 2 Corinthians 4:1 says, "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not give up." 

What ministry? Did I miss something? This is the first verse of the chapter, after all. gotta go back to the last verse of the previous chapter!  2 Cor. 3:18 says: 

"We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit." 

It is the ministry of reflecting the glory of the Lord, as He transforms our lives through His Word and trials, so that we might be more like Him, therefore reflecting Him all the more accurately. 

And I LOVE the beautiful way Paul writes about those trials that are transforming us...."glory to glory" or, as the ESV says, "from one degree of glory to another". 

So, even if your husband doesn't carry the title "pastor" and your family's salary doesn't come from the church...don't think for one moment that you are not in ministry! We all are...and, at it's core, our ministry is all the same. To reflect the glory of the Lord! 

How do we do this? We live before others as what we are...jars of clay that are often afflicted, discouraged, and perplexed but who have great hope in the Treasure living inside of us, our mighty Lord. They see us as not losing heart at the momentary trials because we know there is enough grace for those trials and they become "glory" moments as we reflect the greatness of our God in and through them. They see us as joyful even when our outer man is wasting away, because we can't wait for Heaven, to finally be home with Jesus, free from sin and the sorrow of this fallen world. In the ordinary and mundane to the tragedies and unexpected, they see us reflecting the One Whom we love,  our Lord Jesus Christ! 

May our "reflection ministry" be such "so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God" (2. Cor. 4:15)

"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere."  2 Corinthians 2:14

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Sweetness for the Soul!

Every now and then I read a book that I wish I could buy by the truckload and give to every woman in my life...and by every woman in my life....I mean every woman that I have ever met...even if it was just one time!

Betsy Childs Howard wrote "Seasons of Waiting: Walking by faith when dreams are delayed", and she wrote it beautifully! In all my years of ministry and in the hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of conversations I have had with other women over those years, there is a theme that has almost always emerged as we talk. All of us are waiting for something. All of us are praying for something to end or something to start. Be it big or small, there is a level of waiting that fills every heart. Sometimes waiting brings with it a level of excited expectation as we see the thing longed for approaching. But, many times, waiting can be painful. It can feel like a cloud that follows us around or a burden that never quite seems to leave our shoulders.

I have often cried out to the Lord in seasons of waiting, "Please, help me learn what I need to learn, Lord, so the wait can be over." Sounds like a Biblical prayer, right?

I was only a few pages deep into "Seasons of Waiting" when I was confronted in regards to that very prayer! Betsy says, "You may have picked up this book in the hope that it will help you learn your lesson (and thereby bring your waiting to an end). My hope is that it will help you learn to love waiting, to want to wait well, and to see that God has a beautiful kingdom purpose that he is bringing about through (not in spite of) your waiting."

I couldn't put the book down after that. I wanted to learn how to love waiting, to wait well, and to see God's story in the midst of my waiting so that I could give Him glory, even through the painful waits. As I read, I found myself experiencing a wide range of emotions as she dealt with very real topics (singleness, bareness, sickness, unsettledness, prodigal children/spouse). I often found myself in tears over the pain that waiting can bring (in my life and in the lives of others)...and yet, over and over, I couldn't help but pause and give glory to our faithful God as my heart was filled with hope and JOY over the gift that waiting can be and the testimony it can be to a watching world as we proclaim Christ and His forever promises in the midst of the temporal and as we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen (2 Cor. 4:18).

I'm not sure I can use strong enough words to encourage you to BUY THIS BOOK and then READ IT! Outside of your time in God's Word, it just might be some of your sweetest reading this summer!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Christmas in least the letter part!

It's been a long while since I took the time to give a Pichura update....a window into this crazy, blessed life that God has given us. Of course, a window is just a window. This "glimpse in" just shows part of what God has been up to in our lives this past year. I'm choosing to (mostly) share the blessings...not all the tears and trials. But our year has been full of those, too. How could we expect less when God has promised that we WILL have trials?....not just because of the fallen world we live in, but also because of our own flesh. We rejoice greatly that God has "overcome the world" and we look forward to the day when He comes back or calls us home where we will see Jesus face to face and no longer fight sin!

We moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia, June 29th of 2015. With the move came many changes, one of which was the kids and school. All the kids were homeschooled this year. After being at the Christian school in Hood River for 3 years, it was a bit of an adjustment for us all. And by "bit", I mean "huge, gigantic, and massive". And that is just how the change felt to me. ;) It took us about half the year to get into a rhythm and the other half of the year to warm up to the change. We officially found ourselves enjoying school as of June 1st and I'm happy to say the school year officially ended June 3rd. :)  Okay, okay....maybe I'm the only one giggling at this point! In all seriousness, we have finished school for the year, we did have lots of adjustments, and it wasn't always easy. BUT, we are thankful for God's grace and provision, thankful for the sin that was weeded out of our hearts as we all worked in close proximity to each other, thankful for much forgiveness, both from God and each other, thankful for the time we were able to spend together, thankful for the learning that took place, thankful to have made it, and looking forward to what God has in store for us in the coming year!

With each year, like it or not, our kids keep growing up!

Micah will be a junior in high school this fall and turns 16 in October. read that right...although we have a hard time believing it! He's got his sights set on driving...and we have our sights set on a bus pass. :)

Grace finished 9th grade...adding inches to her height and taking several more off her hair this year. Grace isn't a big fan of change...but once she determines to do something,  it's a joy to watch her bloom!

Samuel turned 14 in April and is ready for high school in the fall. He loves all things basketball...though he made a fantastic goalie in ice hockey this winter!

Faith decided she could use homeschooling to her benefit and skipped the 7th grade this year. She'll join the ranks of her older three siblings as a high schooler come September. She also entered the world of contact lenses this week...and will be praying she can babysit enough to pay for the damage :)

Titus turned 12 on Saturday....and is excited to join the youth group this summer as an incoming 7th grader. He continues to love all things water and still has his sights set on the Coast Guard one day.

Caleb turns 11 in just a few days. He's our last elementary kiddo with 6th grade just around the corner. He's got a smile to melt your heart...and a retainer to help hold it in place :).

(Note: most of our kids have a bit of metal in their mouths....apparently they got the "metal mouth genes" from both Bryan and I)

Bryan and I celebrated 18 years of marriage this past January. I was 18 when I married Bryan, so I have officially spent half of my life married to my other half! ;) And he truly is my other half! It has taken time and years to grow in deep appreciation for all the ways Bryan is different than me. Those early years, I found it easy to grow frustrated by the wish that he would see it my way....or at least to realize that his way was not the best way. (yep...I really did think that)  I am SO THANKFUL that those God saves, He changes! That He is the master potter transforming lumps of clay into useful purposes for His glory, our sanctification, and for the good of all who love Him. The longer I am married (and the more God sanctifies me through His Word and Spirit), the more I see just how much Bryan's differences strengthen where I am weak, complete what I am lacking, and are a beautiful match to my half. The two shall become one. What a beautiful gift!

Andrew Peterson has a song called "Dancing in the Minefields" and it's a favorite of ours. When we got engaged on June 24th, 1997 we never imagined the many minefields (the daily and not so daily trials of life) that our married years would hold, or we might have jumped in a fox hole and given up before we even started. But, by the grace of God, we have been able to dance through them. The dance has not always looked pretty, but we have always been sustained by our Saviour, held up by God's mighty hands, and encouraged by His glorious Word. We have danced, not because our eyes have been fixed on each other but because they have been fixed on our Heavenly Father...the God of all comfort and HOPE!

A minefield of this past year was that our church, here in Canada, went through a church split not long after we arrived. It's painful, it's hard, it's so far from what you ever desire to see the church be and do...and yet, it happens. So, you cling to God's Word, you seek to walk faithfully in His truth, you pray, you keep serving, you keep reaching out, you keep loving, you keep being the body of Christ. And there is beauty for ashes, there are fresh blooms that rise out of what looks like barren land, there is dancing after the mourning. And the roots of steadfast faith grow deeper in the God who is faithful and promises to complete each and every work He has begun!

We look back on this past year with a thankful heart...not because life has been a bowl of cherries...but because the Creator of those cherries has chosen us, called us, saved us, rescued us for His glory, and has promised to use all things to accomplish His GOOD purposes.

We stand right now with the prayer that we will be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord."

And we look forward to God's plans for the Pichura Family in the coming year for we know that every moment, of every day, of every month of the year is held in His hands...for "from Him and to Him and through Him are ALL things. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen!"

Monday, May 30, 2016

Only Proximately Bad

Tonight I planned to write a post on a passage of Scripture we read today in family devotions...and I had a niggling that I might have written on it years ago. Sure enough, I did. So, I figured there was no need to write on it again...but my heart's still echoing the same thoughts and it seemed fitting to share (the car accident and post was 6 years ago...Matt's doing great...and working at a car dealership, for that matter ;) )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you, Matt!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Books, Books, and More Books!

"Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." John 21:25

As a book lover, I can't help but smile big at this verse. It shows the greatness of our Lord in a way that should boggle our minds! 

Not that long ago, a friend asked me for some book recommendations and I thought it might be worthwhile to post some of our/my favorites. That certainly doesn't mean these are the best books out there on a given subject (my pile of "want to read" books seems to grow daily!) but this is some of what we have read and come across in our years of ministry that has blessed and encouraged our own hearts, as well as those we have ministered to. Lord willing, a decade from now....I will have many more to add to this list! :) 

Christian Living:

Trusting God by Jerry Bridges

Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

Saved Without a Doubt by John MacArthur

The Enemy Within by Kris Lungard

Adopted for Life by Russell Moore


What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp

When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey

For Women: 

Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian

Fearlessly Feminine by Jani Ortlund

Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney

Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (can't wait to read her newest book: None Like Him!)

Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup

The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss (a beautiful fiction book!)

Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski

For Moms: 

Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman ( a must have!)

Together by Carrie Ward

Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard

For Parents: 

Gospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley

Everyday Talk by John Younts

You Never Stop Being A Parent by Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick

(Note: Bryan would probably have a couple more pages of books, if I gave him the floor!;) )

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

STILL in Labor!

I was looking through some of my old blog posts, seeking to find some words that might encourage a gal who miscarried...and I came across this post that I wrote on a Tuesday...almost 6 years ago. "Past me" encouraged "present me" :) and I couldn't help but think others might be encouraged, too. Maybe you, like me, are still in labor, too. 

I am in labor!

I never thought I would have the words "I am in labor" come out of my mouth again. Those words bring back memories of my labor pains for each of my children.

With Garett, it started with my water breaking (like a flood!) in my in-law's car and then down their driveway as I quickly jumped out of the car!

Micah's came at 33 weeks and I ended up in the hospital and then on bed rest. On October 2nd, we had gone out to celebrate Garett's home-going to Heaven and contractions started coming regularly while we were at the theater watching "Remember the Titans". (Yep...we finished the movie before heading to the hospital!)

Grace was induced, as was Faith. Titus ended up being a c-section after a night of labor.

With each, the labor was different. All involved pain to one degree or another. Garett's brought as much pain to my heart as it did to my body...knowing each contraction was one minute closer to his death. There was a tinge of uncertainty and "unknown" in my delivery of Micah. There was still the possibility that he was Down Syndrome...a possibility that was not laid to rest till after he was born. Grace's delivery was relatively calm...I enjoyed my epidural immensely. Of course, the fact that she was born such a peanut (6 lb. 3 oz.) was helpful as well. Faith's arrival into the world was the most pain I had ever felt in my life and it brought tears, groans and an intense desire to do whatever it took to GET HER OUT (all 8 lbs. 11 oz.)! I even cut her umbilical cord myself!:) Titus brought a night full of pain but no progress...and I had more pain after his birth as I recovered from a c-section. Samuel and Caleb...their "birth" into our family was brought on after much "heart labor"...they were truly the longest labor of all!

And I think that Samuel and Caleb's "labor" is a bit more along the lines of what Paul had in mind when he penned Galatians 4:19 and reminded me that I am STILL in labor:

"My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you..."

What a verse for mommies to treasure and ponder in their heart, huh?! We know the pain of labor...the ebb and flow...the times of pressure and the times of pain so intense it makes us see have something take over our body that we have absolutely no control over and must trust God's plan (the work He is doing) amidst the pain... knowing that the pain is producing something so beautiful and precious...a little one to hold in our arms!

How true when it comes to the salvation of our children's souls?! Salvation is a work of the Lord...yet we are called to teach, to train, to admonish, to correct, to use the Word of God in our everyday talk in such a way that our conversations point our kids to Him and lift His name on high! It's a season of labor...the pain of our kids sinful choices is real to our own hearts and I know that we have all lifted up words that sound more like groans to the Throne of God on behalf of our children. How often my kids point me to Jesus...the One who is in control of all things...when their actions and attitudes seem to be spinning out of control and the only thing that I can do is trust the promises of God...His plan...and faithfully fulfill the role He has called me to in their lives...all the while praying that part of His plan is the salvation of their souls...that Christ would be formed in them...and that they would be a lover of Christ above all else!

So, ladies, we are still in labor...let's not forget it! May the days of pain point us to our Savior and may our "breathing technique" be one of continual breaths of prayer to our Lord. As we begin to realize more and more that, ultimately, our lives and our families are "out of our control", may we remember that NOTHING is out of the control of our Sovereign God. And when the labor pains are bringing us to the point of exhaustion may our strength be renewed by the inter-venous flow, not of drugs, but of the Word of God!

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9

"Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually." Psalms 105:4

Monday, May 9, 2016

Who Says a Quarter is Worth Just 25 Cents?

Last week, I read a statistic that had my mouth hanging open. If you were to take a single quarter and drop it anywhere in North America (That includes the USA, Canada, and Mexico) you would have the approximate size of our WHOLE solar system in comparison to the galaxy we live in, the Milky Way. And if that wasn't mind blowing enough....there are believed to be BILLIONS of galaxies in our universe! 

What does our great God, creator of it ALL, say: 

"Look up and see: who created these? He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing." Isaiah 40:26

He knows how many stars there are but, even more so, He has named them all....billions and billions of them! I'm left somewhere between wanting to cry and wanting to fall on my knees and join the chorus of the living creatures who's voices, day and night, ring out, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming." Rev. 4:8 

Look up to the Heavens, sisters in Christ, and stand in awe! That's our God...He did all that and more than we can possibly even begin to see or imagine. Don't worry. Don't be afraid. Don't grumble and complain. Don't lose heart: "For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly the message of life." Phillippians 2:13-16a

Look up to the Heavens, and cry out in prayer! Pray that God would cause you to shine bright in the world, community, neighborhood, and family He has placed you in. Pray that you may walk wisely as you shine, that God might use you in leading many to righteousness as they see Christ in you, the hope of glory! 

"Those who are wise will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." Daniel 12:3

And it just might not be a bad idea to keep a quarter handy. You never know when you might be able to use it as a springboard to declaring the glory of God and proclaiming the work of His hands, as He already designed it (Psalm 19:1). That quarter just might be worth way more than 25 cents! 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Praying the Bible

When I was a "wee one" (and I do mean in many of you would still say I am "wee" in stature!), I was taught that there are sins of commission and sins of omission. Or, in other words, we sin not only by doing what we shouldn't do but also by not doing what we should do. Which means, when you start thinking you are doing pretty good because of the sin you are not committing, it's a great time to be completely humbled as you think about the things you should be doing but aren't (example: LOVE your enemies, PRAY for them, and BLESS them....need I say more?!:) ).

Anyway, this concept of sinning by what we don't do is clearly seen in words spoken by Samuel in I Samuel. He said, "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way." (I Samuel 12:23)  

It is sin to not pray.

It is sin to not pray.

No...that is not a typo, I just had to repeat it twice so the weight of it would sink into my own heart and yours. So often I hear about how prayer is a struggle for many believers...and it's easy for me to feel "comfortable" with my own struggles because...well....hey, it's not just me, after all.

But that is the wrong focus...that's focusing on others instead of fixing my eyes on Christ and seeking to walk worthy of my obey Him in all regards.  Many times in Scripture, He calls you and me to pray without ceasing. To live a life in constant communion with Him. To depend on Him in the big things and in all the little mundane things that fill up our days.

My heart cried out to the Lord for help, and He so graciously gave me the form of a book! :) I'd like to commend to you, "Praying the Bible" by Donald Whitney. I can't say enough good things about it! It's only 112 pages but, in the words of Albert Mohler,"This little book is explosive and powerful".  I found my spirit rejoicing as I was reminded and encouraged to "seek the Lord at all times" using God's own Words as a template! Buy it for yourself for Mother's Day....your soul will be blessed...and your family will be blessed as you faithfully lift them up before the throne of grace, guided by Gods very Words of grace!

"I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live." Psalm 116:1-2 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Describing the Indescribable

I've been contemplating Isaiah 55 and couldn't help but think it offers a great Gospel guideline as we seek to "proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light".  (1 Peter 2:9)

Here's my bullet-point thoughts: 

vs. 1: "Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters..." The call goes out to all...and the call is to embrace Christ ( Jesus said in John 14:4, "But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again--ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life."")

vs.1 cont'd: "and you without money; come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!" Salvation from our sins, God's judgement, and wrath is a free gift for those who believe, though, it was incredibly cost Jesus His very life. 

vs. 2 "Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?" Ecclesiastes calls it "chasing after wind". You'll never have enough and your soul will never find rest until it finds rests in God alone (Augustine). Psalm 107:9 says,  "For He has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things." 

vs. 6 "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while He is near." Our lives are but a vapor, don't wait, don't presume there may be a tomorrow. 2 Corinthians 6:2b says, "Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation." Cry out for mercy and grace! 

vs. 7 "Let the wicked one abandon his way, and the sinful one his thoughts." Salvation involves not just being saved TO something (eternal life) but it also involves being saved FROM something, our sin. That means, genuine salvation begins with repentance. A broken spirit that sees her sin for what it is, treason against a holy God, and then, disgusted by it, turns away from her sinful ways, thoughts, and actions to Jesus who is "the way, the truth, and the life". 

vs.7 cont'd "let him return to the Lord so He may have compassion on him, and to our God for He will freely forgive."  1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 

vs. 8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways. This is the Lord's declaration. For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Now what? God saved you but you realize that your thoughts and ways of living have not been what God desires. His ways and thoughts are perfect...true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19:9) He's not left us alone. He's given us His Word to know His thoughts, and, when we are saved, He seals us (places inside of us) His very Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to help us better understand His thoughts and conform us to His ways.  

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift." I Cor. 9:15

Friday, April 8, 2016

Do the Next Thing

We have the privilege of living in an area that has LOTS of walking/hiking paths through the woods behind and around our house. Some of these trails are relatively flat and I can keep talking to Bryan at my normal 250 words per minute. ;) Other trails lead you right up the side of the mountain and, while the view is beautiful, the climb has me focusing on my breathing as though I were in labor. It's the quietest part of the hike for Bryan, which may explain why he takes me on those routes so often! :)

It isn't long after we start climbing the steps, or walking up the switch backs, that my legs start to burn and I start looking up and ahead at how much farther I have to go. Invariably, it's much farther than I hoped for and I have found myself stopping several times on the way up to "rest" because I feel like I just can't make it. (Insert the "clearly she is out of shape" that I know you all are thinking!)

But I did something different the last couple of days and I made it to the top without stopping. I simply looked down at the ground and the very next step ahead of me and said to myself, "I can make the next step". And all those steps, taken one at a time, totalled 250 yards of uphill climb without a break. What changed? Certainly not the hill I was climbing, and it's not my out-of-shape was my thoughts. It was my direction and my focus. I just took the next step.

As I took one step after another, I couldn't help but be reminded how true this reality is, not just for my hike, but for so much of my life. I can start out the day rejoicing that the Lord has made it and excited to see what He has in store for our waking hours...and the smile can quickly fade from my face just by entering the kitchen. The stack of dishes reminds me that I forgot to turn on the dishwasher and now I have backed up dishes on my counter and in my sink that are turning whatever was eaten on them to glue as fast as possible. The fridge reminds me that I forgot the pull out the meat last night and now I need to come up with a new plan for dinner on top of the fact that it's almost empty and I still have not made up my grocery list. I look at my desk and see my computer, and the piles of papers that surround it, reminding me of the emails I have not returned and the list of to-do's that require attention before the papers consume my computer. And I haven't even made it to the homeschool room or peaked into the laundry room to see how the clothes hamper grew overnight. Just like that, my smile is replaced with a grimace, joy is replaced by frustration, and excitement is replaced with dread. I've tried to take my whole day and tackle it in my mind in the span of a minute...and, in the space of that one minute, I already feel like I can't make it through the day.

Elisabeth Elliot shared something once (based on an old saxon poem) that has been a source of encouragement to me when I feel overwhelmed by all that is in front of me. She said, "Just do the next thing".

Do it immediately; Do it with prayer; Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, Tracing His Hand, Who placed it before thee with
Earnest command. Stayed on Omnipotence, Safe 'neath His wing, 

Leave all resultings, DO THE NEXT THING.

I'm not on the other side of this battle...I'm in the midst of this battle to not be overwhelmed, to not grow weary, to laugh at the days to come, to rejoice in God's new mercies every morning, to give thanks instead of grumble and complain, to rest instead of worry, to see through the trial to the gracious hand of God, to trust and obey instead of control and force my way, to do the next thing. But, praise God, I am not defenseless in this battle, though, and neither are you! We have the full armor of God at our disposal as we wrestle our thoughts to the ground and take them captive to obey Christ, as we cling with all our might to God's Word and the precious promises that we find Ephesians 6:10-18. Our God has unlimited strength...and that strength is ours in Christ. We can stand armed for daily battle with the truth of God's Word in our hearts and minds, with the righteousness of Christ giving us access to the Father through prayer, with words that bring peace to our homes and relationships through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as we lived faith-filled lives fixed, not on what is seen, but what is unseen. This is our hope, this is our confidence, this is true reality!

Ready to do the next thing?

"Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore,
with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.
In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.
Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints."