Thursday, July 2, 2015

Taking Stock of What's Really Important

I treasure this picture because it captures two enormous changes to our family this year. Zhenya's engagement ring speaks to her upcoming wedding in September. And, if you've been following our blog, you know that the little hand belongs to our fourth grandchild. On top of those changes, Sarah, Kirsten and Matt all have new jobs. With all that's going on in our extra large family, it's easy to get caught up in the whirl of activities. As a result, the following quote really hit home. The words are written by C.T. Studd, a missionary to China, India and Africa in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In a letter written as a young man while serving in China he wrote:
"Pingyang. February 7, 1886 The Lord is so good and always gives me a large dose of spiritual champagne every morning which braces one up for the day and night. Of late, I have had such glorious times. I generally wake at about 3:30 a.m. and feel quite wide awake, so have a good read, etc., and then have an hour's sleep or so before finally getting up. I find what I read then is stamped indelibly on my mind all though the day. and it is the sweetest of quiet times, not a foot astir, nor a sound to be heard, saving that of God. If I miss this time I feel like Samson shorn of his hair and so all of his strength. I see more and more how much I have to learn of the Lord. I want to be a workman approved, not just with a 'pass' degree, as it were. Oh, how I wish I has devoted my early life, my whole life to God and His Word. How much I have lost by those years of self-pleasing and running after this world's honors and pleasures." Norman Grubb, C.T. Studd: Cricketer & Pioneer, pgs.54-55
I don't know about you, dear reader, but I don't want to move through the crazy busy that is my life like Samson with his hair cut off. I need the strength and wisdom and peace that I can only find by seeking the Lord each day, every day, early in the day. I'm heading to bed right now so that I can rise early and get some of that spiritual champagne!

May God bless and keep you,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Would the Orphan's Dream Come True?

Last week our family made a last minute trip to central Iowa. We'd gotten word about a horse for sale so quickly rescheduled the days events. Then we jumped in our trusty 15-passenger van for an utterly new experience. This adventure was an especially important one to Mr R and me.

You see, years ago the two of us made a promise to a Russian judge. As we went through the final step of actually going to court in Russia in our effort to adopt Kirsten, Nathaniel and Eliana, we endured intense grilling which culminated in an insanely-long deliberation by the judge. Well, okay...we probably only fidgeted on the hard wooden benches for about an hour -- it just SEEMED like forever! The judge who had intimidated us for two days from his high perch on the dais had our hearts in his hands. Many months earlier we had visited Moscow with a group of fellow Americans interested in providing homes for fatherless children living in orphanages. On that trip, we'd not only felt the Lord's calling to add Nathaniel (10) and Eliana (5) to our family. Much to our surprise, we'd also fallen in love with a 15-year-old beauty with a kind heart and a quirky sense of humor. Since then we'd spent months jumping through hoops put in place on both the American and Russian sides trying to turn the three kiddos -- who had grown up in the same orphanage -- into our children.

When the judge returned after his deliberation, he made it clear -- through our interpreter -- that his agreement to the Kirsten's adoption came with a condition. He looked us steadily in the eye. We held our breath not knowing what would come next. The judge then told us that we must ensure that Kirsten would get the opportunity to interact with horses. During her testimony in court, the judge had asked her about her dreams and goals, and he was determined that her new parents would see to the nourishment of this orphan's aspirations. We didn't know how we would keep our word to the judge. Horses had never been on our family's radar. Even so, we breathed a sigh of relief. All along the arduous path to adopting this teenager, God had been leading. He had been ever faithful when we when we repeatedly ran full force into the inevitable roadblocks that seem to be part of international adoption. So the two of us held hands and meekly nodded our agreement to the judge's condition.

In the four years since that adoption took place, the Lord has opened doors left and right for our horse lover. And, as it turns out, Kirsten isn't alone in her passion. Her sisters, Christina (17) and Faith (15), share her love of all things equine. The three sisters have bonded tightly as close friends through this shared interest. They've taken riding lessons together and volunteered at a nearby ranch that offers therapeutic riding for children with disabilities or delays.

A little over a year ago Kirsten graduated from high school. She did so with a dream in her heart. She longed to become a horse trainer. Last summer she was blessed to work as an intern on a dude ranch. She got in numberless hours of horse riding. She even learned how to heard cattle. Then in the fall Kirsten made a move to Ohio, living with Aaron and Anna for a few months. The Lord opened a door again, and she found a job she loved. She worked as a stable hand at a facility that is home to more than 40 horses, many of them trained to show.

Now Kirsten is back home and ready for the next step in this journey. She hopes to learn the Pat Parelli natural horsemanship training method. Before Kirsten can attend the school in the Colorado mountains, she has to be able to demonstrate that she has reached a number of milestones in training a horse. In order to do this, Kirsten needed a horse to train. Our dream as parents is to be able to help each of our children with a portion of the cost of their post high school education. For Kirsten, this meant we would help her buy a horse. Thus, our four-hour drive into the heart of Iowa last week.

Kirsten heard about a horse named Magic through Brittany, a friend she'd made while volunteering at the therapeutic horseback riding stable. Brittany is thoroughly connected in the horse world in the upper Midwest. With that knowledge, she enjoys playing "matchmaker" -- helping prospective horse owners find just the right animal. The looming question as we drove was would there be a fit between our daughter and this particular animal. 

When we arrived at the stable, Kirsten approached Magic somewhat tentatively. She was studying him carefully to see what traits he would exhibit. She was reading the three-year-old's body language.

While Kirsten was watching the horse, I was watching her. It wasn't long before her expression change. Her look of hesitation changed to a cautious smile, and I knew we were watching something magical happen between a former orphan and a dark chocolate horse sporting a braided mane for the special day.

A few minutes into Kirsten's contemplation, Magic's owner, John, offered to show her Magic's level of training.

He had Magic mount this "bridge" to demonstrate that Magic doesn't spook easily. Next, John mounted Magic and rode him around the arena. Our girls who are now walking encyclopedia's of horse knowledge had told us ahead of time that seeing the owner ride the horse he's trying to sell is crucial. After all, if the owner is unwilling to ride the horse, there's a good chance the animal has "issues".

Now it was Kirsten's chance to ride.

Her siblings watched with interest. Faith recorded the entire ride on Kirsten's phone for her.

While all this was going on, Kirsten's Dad and I were in the background praying without ceasing. We still know so little about horses that we were completely dependent on God to give the wisdom to know if this was THE horse. We felt a wonderful peace despite the major expense we were contemplating making. God leads and guides those understand their dependence on Him. He is faithful to help those who cry out to Him.

Kirsten dismounted and did some more thinking and praying.

And then the came the smile that told us it was time for her daddy to do some negotiating! Over the course of more than four years, God had led us baby step by baby step to this momentous occasion.

As Mr. R and John talked, I just couldn't help thinking back to that Russian court room. I couldn't help wishing that the judge could have been with us to see the orphaned child who lived without hope become a horse owner, by God's grace. Somehow I think that the stoic countenance he presented throughout the adoption hearing would  have been replaced by a grin as wide as Kirsten's.

God abounds in lovingkindness!

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Family's Newest Little One

Newborns might just be God's most marvelous creation.

Staying with Aaron and Anna gave me the perfect opportunity to capture these photos of Jillian.

At one point as I was adjusting my camera, Mocha came over to check out the newest family member.

This big smile was Jillian's immediate response. I think the two of them are going to be good friends!

The rest of these photos can speak for themselves.

To God be the glory!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Like William and Kate?

Anna, Aaron and Jillian the morning after she was born

Today I needed to pick up a few things at Target. While I was waiting in line, my eyes wandered to one of the magazines. Instead of being repulsed by the photo as I so often am, I was drawn to a photograph of a stunningly beautiful young family. The headline read "Will, Kate and their Little Princess". As I smiled at the charm of the the British royals, I couldn't help but think of a certain family in America. They, too, are young with a growing family. They, too, have a brand-new baby girl. If featured on a magazine cover this week, their headline could read in a very similar fashion, "Aaron, Anna and their Little Princess".

This family actually has royal aspirations, too. As they raise Jillian Ainsleigh (doesn't her name even sound regal?), they will teach her about God's love for her. They will help her grasp the concept that she is a sinner (as we all are). And, Aaron and Anna will teach Jillian about God's sacrifice of His own son to pay for her sins. The other thing they will do is pray. Oh, my, but will they PRAY! They will spend countless hours on their knees entreating God to open Jillian's heart to His saving grace and mercy. Because you see, Aaron and Anna's number one goal for their brand new daughter's life is that she will fully and completely surrender her heart to Jesus. Then she will be Royalty. She will be a daughter of the King -- forever.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Peaceful Close to a VERY Eventful Day

Dear reader, I'm eager to share the story of the addition of our newest family member, and I have begun work on the post.

While you wait, let us exult together in God's goodness. The birth process seems always to result in an exciting tale which often includes unplanned twists. Jillian's birth was no exception. She came so fast that the midwife, who had come for a routine visit earlier in the afternoon, hadn't had enough time to return!

And, yet, despite the speed of the home birth, the day ended with a deep sigh of peace. We were all resting in God's grace. Our hearts were filled with gratitude for the wonderful gift the Lord had placed in Aaron and Anna's arms. In these photos Aaron and Anna are reclining on their own bed just ready to settle in for a much-needed night's sleep.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dear Daddy {Repost}

This post was one of our first when we started blogging a little over five years ago. It has remained one of our most popular posts. Since Father's Day is upon us again, I thought I'd share it again. (Christina's blog name was Tatiana back then. Faith was Gigglebox and Hope was Princess Bink. ) Christina will be 18 this fall. We adopted the three of them a decade ago.

(The letter below was written by 12-year-old Tatiana to present to her daddy on Father's Day. With Tatiana's permission and without Mr. R's knowledge, I share her letter.

We adopted Tatiana and her biological sisters, Gigglebox and Princess Bink, from Russia five years ago. The photos on the left were taken in the older girls' orphanage on the day we met them in December 2004.

I will thank God for all eternity for the incredible man He has given me as a life partner. ~ Mrs. Beaver)

Dear Daddy,

I am the most blessed girl to have such a daddy like you! I love you very much! Down below I am going to write fifty reasons why I love you!

1. I love you because you love God

2. I love you because whatever you do, you do to the glory of God.

3. I love you because you take the time to read God’s word and to meditate on it like God commands.

4. I love you because you are gentle and patient when you correct me.

5. I love you because you are quick to forgive me.

6. I love you because you love Mommy and are keeping your promise to stay with her and love her all her life.

7. I love you because you write God’s word on your heart.

8. I love you because you think spending time with your family is important and you do spend family time with us!

9. I love you because you love orphans.

10. I love you because you do what God tells you to without complaining.

11. I love you because you are following God’s will to adopt three more kids even though you already have nine kids.

12. I love you because you parent us the way God’s word tells you to.

13. I love you because you give me advice that is for my good.

14. I love you because you set a standard and keep us to that standard.

15. I love you because you have a very funny sense of humor.

16. I love you because you take time to read to us.

17. I love you because you keep yourself pure and you keep your mind pure.

18. I love you because you walk in integrity.

19. I love you because you make sure your children are safe.

20. I love you because you look out for other people’s needs first before your own.

21. I love you because you don’t have any gods but the one true God.

22. I love you because you believe the truth that God made the earth and not a “big bang”.

23. I love you because you respect your mother.

24. I love you because you are merciful and yet just.

25. I love you because you do not cheat but do things fairly.

26. I love you because you always speak the truth.

27. I love you because you are mature and you are teaching my brothers how to be mature.

28. I love you because you help your children persevere through hard times.

29. I love you because you are kind enough to help your children with math when they need help.

30. I love you because you help those in need.

31. I love you because you are kind enough to take us on vacation.

32. I love you because you are a good steward of what God has given you.

33. I love you because you are compassionate when your children get hurt.

34. I love you because you never boast or praise yourself.

35. I love you because when you start a job you finish the job.

36. I love you because you are wise and not foolish in the way you drive.

37. I love you because you love your church family.

38. I love you because you are willing to help when help is needed.

39. I love you because you are slow to anger.

40. I love you because you keep no record of wrongs.

41. I love you because you don’t go around complaining about what you don’t have, but you are thankful for what the Lord has given you.

42. I love you because you set a good example for your children of what it looks like to truly follow Christ.

43. I love you because you never give glory to yourself but you always give glory to God.

44. I love you because you are slow to speak and never say anything rash before you think about it.

45. I love you because you show kindness to animals (like Grace [our dog]). Even if you don’t like some animals (like cats), you would never hurt them because God has said to be kind to all creatures.

46. I love you because you love your neighbors.

47. I love you because you don’t gossip.

48. I love you because you don’t have fear of man but you fear God.

49. I love you because you take responsibility when you sin.

50. I love you because when you sin you repent and are humble.

51. I love you because you adopted me!

Thank you, Dad, for being such a good dad to me! I love you very much and I am honored to be your daughter.

Love, Tatiana

Happy Father's Day to My Man

Grandpa with Jillian Ainsleigh yesterday, her fourth day of life

Oh, how I thank God for you, Jim Reynolds, as we celebrate the birth of our fourth grandchild.

You are truly the greatest father I know. Your commitment to Christ and your decades of dedicated study of the Bible have made you gentle and wise. You are like a magnet to our children. They love being with you, and what interests you interests them. This includes your love of Jesus. When you talk of your Savior, our kiddos are willing to listen because you are open and honest about your own failings and weaknesses.

Thank you for the time you invest in our twelve children and now their spouses as we're blessed with marriage after marriage. Thank you for turning your heart toward me and our kids when there are so many other things to draw your interest!

Most of all, I'm thankful to God that you are a man courageous enough to adopt. What an adventure we're traveling together! I can't begin to imagine our lives with out our tribe! I love you, and I love growing old together as we collect beautiful grandchildren. What an amazing story the Lord is writing in all these children and grandchildren after so many years of heart-rending infertility! Only God. He is so good!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Will Her Eyes Be Blue? Part 2

Jillian Ainsleigh is now 72 hours old. I believe we already have the answer to my earlier query about the eye color of Aaron and Anna's third daughter. Like her sisters, I believe she's going to have remarkably blues eyes. God is an amazing artist!

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Boy, dear readers, do I have a story to tell regarding the birth of Anna's baby, but life around here has been crazy -- caring for three little girls and doing everything we can to help momma rest and heal. Thus, for now I'll just share the details and follow soon with the tale.

With tremendous gratitude to God, we proudly announce the birth of:
Jillian Ainsleigh
Born 16 June 2015, 6:58 pm
Weight: 8 pounds even

Both mother and baby are doing great
God abounds in lovingkindness!

The photo was taken this afternoon when Jillian was just shy of 48 hours old.