Friday, December 31, 2010

The Eternal Impact of a Marriage

Mr. & Mrs. Beaver:

As we share some of our favorite marriage quotes as a way of marking our 27th anniversary, Let us warn you that this quote is long by blog standards, but worth it. The powerful words come from a favorite parenting book called Gospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley.   
     "The message that our marriage preaches either repels or attracts our children. God wants your child to watch your marriage and think, 'I want a marriage like that, and I want the God that produced it." Or, "When I think of the beauty of the gospel, I think of my parents' marriage. I want to be part of a church that is loved by God the way my dad loves my mother. I want to be part of a church that finds joy in submitting to Christ as my mother joyfully submits to my father.'
     The gospel is the good news that the Groom loves His bride. He loved her so much that he humbled Himself, descended an infinite distance, became man, and suffered poverty and abuse for thirty-three years. Then in the greatest display of love in history, he allowed Himself to be tortured to death on a cross in His bride's place. The Son of God did all of this to serve His bride, to make peace where enmity reigned. What motivated Him? Love that surpasses knowledge! He longed to unite Himself in irrevocable love to an unworthy bride.
     But the gospel is not just about the Groom's love. It also provokes a response from his bride. When understood from the heart, it motivates her to humble herself, love the Groom with all her heart, respect him and serve him with joyful abandon. The gospel summons Christ's bride to yield to the servant authority of her crucified king.
     Here is Paul's point: Christian marriage preaches this union. It either makes [the gospel] attractive or ugly...What I am saying is that our marriages exist for something bigger than themselves, and our children are watching" (pgs.111,113)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Flower-Girl Interlude

Our Natasha and Princess Bink were besides themselves with ecstasy when they were invited by their beloved oldest sister, Tessa, to be flower girls in her March wedding. All this happened in October while while Mr. Beaver and I were in Russia on our court trip to become the legal parents of Daria, Alexander, and Oksana. Tessa knew from the beginning that she wanted to include her new six-year-old sister, but Oksana had, and still has, no way of understanding with her extremely limited English.

No matter. What little girl doesn't enjoy a chance to try on beautiful dresses and prance in front of a mirror?That's exactly what happened at Wednesday's fitting.

From Orphan to Flower Girl

Mrs. Beaver:

We didn't have a flower girl in our wedding 27 years ago today.

However, now we find ourselves the parents of three flower girls! They'll drop rose pedals in Tessa and Aaron's upcoming wedding ceremony. All three of these flower girls are very special young ladies because all of them have lived in Russian orphanages. I couldn't resist sharing some photos taken yesterday when they were trying on dresses for the big day in March.

Here's the littlest, Oksana. Until six weeks ago, she had lived in an orphanage all her life. We praise the Father of the Fatherless for His goodness in liberating this little one. "He is to us a God of deliverances." (Ps. 68:20)

The Perfect Design

Mr. & Mrs. Beaver:

Today we celebrate our 27th anniversary. God has blessed us above and beyond all that we could have hoped for while standing at the alter.

Over the course of the day (or maybe the next couple of days), we'd like to share some quotes that have encouraged or challenged us along the way.
"God never intended marriage to be a drudgery. He designed it to be a foretaste of heaven. He didn't craft it to start with fireworks and go out with fading smoke. Much to the contrary, He crafted it it to start with fireworks and turn into the aurora borealis--a glorious display of His supernatural love and grace. In God's economy, marriage is supposed to get better and better with time--not the other way around."-- Eric and Leslie Ludy, The First 90 Days of Marriage

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

'Tis Better to Give...

.Mrs. Beaver:

If you'll read this post: (Thanks, and Giving) written by a guest journalist on one of the Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project trips to Moscow like Mr. Beaver and I took last January, I think it will enchance your understanding of Daria's heart in my story below. The young boy mentioned in the story was from our children's orphanage and was one of Alexander's friends.

About three weeks ago Daria came to me in the middle of the afternoon. I was working at the desk in my room so the conversation was to be a private one. Her countanance revealed profound concern, and I immediately wondered what kind of deep talk we were about to have. When you've only known you're teenage daughter for a month, anything is possible.

Slowly, with effort and patience on both our parts, we worked away to uncover her thoughts using my tiny bit of Russian and her small knowledge of English. We eventually reached the understanding that she was bothered by the realization that she didin't have any way to buy Christmas gifts because she had no money. I felt a hurricane-strength wind of relief whoosh over me. This was a problem with which I could help. In fact, this was a dilemma with which I would find joy in solving.

I told my dear, generous daughter that this year her mama and papa would give her money to buy gifts. She immediately looked relieved and bouyed. That look of happiness only last a brief instance before she told me in no uncertain terms that our giving money to her could only happen once and after that she must get a job and earn her spending money. I just smiled non commitally, thinking, "We'll deal with that later. For now I have a happy 15-year-old who is eager to demonstrate love to her new siblings."

Tessa was the one who took Daria on her first-ever Christmas shopping foray. In a stunningly quick two hours after stopping at only two stores, Daria had collected gifts for all eleven of her new brothers and sisters. Tessa came home wide-eyed at how efficient her new sister had been.

When we opened gifts on Christmas, it was easy to see that Daria was not only efficient she was also thoughtful. She's been studying her siblings in the short time she's known them, and she had picked out a perfect present ("podarak" in Russian) for each of them.

Tessa was the first to open one of Daria's gifts:

Tessa was thrilled with her gift--she loves coffee--and the giver was at least equally happy. Daria's detective work had paid off.

All of us who have lived in America for at least a few years got a quiet chuckle out of something that is yet too subtle for Daria to understand. The coffee's flavor which Daria had picked out wasn't one Tessa would normally purchase. It was "Tennessee Whiskey"!

"...remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said,
'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35b 

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Vikings Fan in Moscow? God Must Have Meant Him for Our Family!

Mr. Beaver:

We first went to Moscow in January 2010 with the express purpose of meeting Alexander to see if God might want us to adopt him. We had read about him in a Russian Orphan Lighthouse post back in mid December and had fallen in love immediately [Ray of Light - December 2009].

While we had fallen in love with Alexander from afar, we really didn't know what to expect when we met him. We arrived tired from extensive travel (from St. Thomas to Atlanta to Sioux City to New York to Moscow) and immediately jumped into interaction with the group of 8 other adults from the US and 11 orphans from three orphanages about 400 miles east of Moscow.

After a brief birthday celebration in the common room of the hostel where we were to stay, everyone was sent to bundle up for a sight-seeing trek out in the bitter cold of Moscow in January. Little did we suspect what we would see when we were reunited as a group outside...

We were amazed! Alexander greeted us with his winning smile in a brand new Minnesota Vikings coat! How in the world did this orphan from rural Russia get a bright, new NFL team coat? And even more amazing, how did he get a coat for the team that we have been supporting since we moved to Minnesota in 1996? We could only conclude this was the hand of God. Throughout the process God gave us little reminders like this that He was in control, guiding the outcome even when the people involved in the process seemed to present insurmountable barriers. To Mrs. Beaver and me, this was a gentle, even humorous, confirmation, that God was indeed leading us to Alexander.

Fast forward to Christmas 2010...

After mountains of paperwork, seemingly endless delays, and a couple of challenging days in court... we find ourselves feeling amazingly blessed by God. After all the travails we find ourselves celebrating Christmas as a family of 14!

Alexander's siblings wanted to delight him our first Christmas together, and delight him they did... by feeding his interest in the "Vee-kings" (his way of saying Vikings) by giving him team attire!

We thank our God for His faithfulness and His sovereignty. Because of these we can rest in the assurance that He reigns even when men rise up in belief that they are in control. For that we will be eternally grateful. We will also be eternally grateful to God for our "Vee-kings" fan whose smile starts in the crinkles around his eyes and spreads to the hearts of anyone around him.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Her First Doll, Part 2

Mrs. Beaver:

Yesterday when we gave six-year-old Oksana her first doll for Christmas, we learned that 15-year-old Daria had never owned a doll of her own either. We were determined to fill that hole in her life!

Following church today, Mr. Beaver and I went shopping. At store number three, we found just what we were hunting for.

Here is Daria's response:

When we asked Daria what she was going to name her doll, she told us immediately "Marina." We asked why, and she told us it was because Marina had helped her become part of a family.

We thought the name was perfect! After all, Marina is a hero to the two of us. She has such a heart for orphaned children that she has facilitated the adoptions of about 700 children in the past decade and a half.

Marina with Princess Bink in our Moscow flat
Marina, you have given us a very special 15-year-old "baby." We're so glad to have Daria, as well as Alexander and Oksana, as part of our family. Daria recognizes the important role you played in changing her life forever, and so do we! But, it wasn't just Daria's life that you changed. You have allowed the two of us much joy in giving us the role of dream-fulfillers in the lives of these three precious children. Thank you! We love you, Marina, and we miss you!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Her First Doll

Mrs. Beaver:

So many negative stories about adoption reach the media, but rarely do adoptive parents get to share their joys. Christmas day has lent itself to some of that very special adoptive-parent joy for Mr. Beaver and me. As adoptive parents we get to experience some pretty amazing "firsts." Today we got to watch six-year-old Oksana's happiness as she played with and nurtured her first doll that is all her own, not the communal property of her orphanage.

It wasn't long before an older sister got a blanket out for Oksana's new baby, and Daria immediately helped her swaddle her "kookla" (doll in Russian). From what we could gather from Daria, swaddling is an important skill, perhaps even an art form in Russia that all Russians must know and be able to do. Daria was astounded that Alexander had never been taught.

The swaddling left "La La," Oksana's name for her baby, hungry. The new mother was happy to oblige.

All day long we were delighted by Oksana's delight. What a blessing to be the ones that the Father of the Fatherless has asked to bless her.

P. S. We just learned that Daria, who is almost 16, has never owned a doll either. She was willing to be vulnerable with us and told us she would still very much like to own one. That's enough to bring grizzled, gray, extremely experienced adoptive parents to tears. Following the Sabbath tomorrow, you'll find Mr. Beaver and me scouring the depleted shelves of the stores for just the right kookla.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Gift of Gifts

"O God,  take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
    and enlarge my mind;
  let me hear good tidings of great joy,
    and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
  place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
    to look upon my Redeemer's face,
    and in him account myself delivered from sin;
  let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
    to my heart,
  embrace him with undying faith,
  exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou hast given me so much
    that heaven can give no more."
"The Gift of Gifts" The Valley of Vision, pg. 29

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ice Cream for Dinner?

Mrs. Beaver:

Yesterday Mr. Beaver invited us to come to his work as his day finished. He wanted to show Daria, Alexander, and Oksana where their Papa works, but the rest of us also benefited because he offered to feed us ice cream.

Mr. Beaver, who works in Research and Development (as well as Marketing) even let us try some ice creams that won't be out on the market for few weeks yet.

Joe and Lissie are chocolate ice cream connoisseurs, and they declared the new chocolate to be the best they'd ever tasted.

We all enjoyed our unusual and NUTRITIOUS dinner!

Alexander was down-right gleeful!

We weren't surprised by his reaction, however. We first met him in Moscow in January, along with about 10 other orphans. They'd all been given the opportunity to leave their orphanages, 400 hundred miles to the east, for nearly a week and spend time with a group of American adults interested in ministering to them. Some of the adults would go on to adopt, although we were not allowed to tell the child or children that outright. However, the kids who were likely to get adopted began to suspect as the week went on. When Alexander learned that the man he hoped would be his papa "made" ice cream, his face beamed and he ran from friend to friend telling the other orphans of his good fortune.

Oksana was even eating two-fisted at times.

After our feast, Mr. Beaver gave a us tour. He showed us the kitchen where the culinologist does his creative work. With Daria's love of cooking, she immediately decided she'd like just such a kitchen for her own.

We then visited a freezer that is kept at 20 degrees below zero.

Tessa found that a bit chilly, but Joe came quickly to his sister's rescue.

We saw Papa's cubicle...

...and while we were in the office area of the building, Lissie walked by an antiquated piece of equipment and innocently asked, "What's this?" (We staged the photo.)

All-in-all, the evening was a great hit with everyone...

...contributing to the growing family closeness.

Today, 22 December 2010, we celebrated our one month anniversary as a family of 14. God has been so very good to us. This past month just couldn't have gone more smoothly. He is the Giver of All Good Gifts (James 1:17), and He's given us three new gems to add to the nine He had already given us!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Second Full Day Together: Red Square, Part 2

Mr. Beaver:

We promised when we concluded Part One that there would be a second part to our tale of our second full day spent together in Moscow--the day we ventured to Red Square. However, other events in our lives seem to keep demanding blog posts and much time has passed.

We still want to recount the day. What an amazing gift from God to be able to see Red Square together, with it's world famous sites, when you've just become a family! (For the first part of the story, see XXXXX--I'll get help from my teens with this tomorrow--Mrs. Beaver.)

As it turns out, this retelling is going to take at least three posts. Here's a bit more of our adventure:

We started our second full day again with family Bible time. The next step was some study of tour books and maps.

Speedy and Jaynie learning about the captial of the country of their birth.

Cassandra, Alexander and Princess Bink studying the map of Moscow.

After becoming a bit more informed, we bundled up for the trek to Red Square. Our hearts overflowed with gratitude to the Lord to have the opportunity to see one of the world's great cities--the great city of our nine Russian adoptees--together as a family.

As we left our flats (remember we had to have five flats in two high rises because each flat slept only two or three), we considered using the Metro. This Metro station was the closest to our flats and is shaped like the Soviet star.

This was a common sight near high pedestrian traffic areas in Moscow like Metro stations--a little old woman curled into a ball, begging. A Russian Orthodox icon is in her cup. Speedy had just dropped some coins into her receptacle. The temperature was probaby only about 35 degrees.

As we considered using the Metro and our newness to being a clan of 14, combined with the crowds inherent to the Metro, our choice was easy -- we would walk the 1.7 miles instead. Plus, the walk provided opportunities to build relationships.

We frequently walked in pairs to avoid being in the way of other pedestrians. Can you imagine--our family now makes up SEVEN pairs?!?

On our approach to Red Square we passed by the Russian State Library. A giant statue of the prolific writer Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) sits in front of the angular building. It's hard to get perspective on Dostoevsky's size here, but the building is easily four stories tall.

However, the mammoth statue was almost concealed by our dozen children.

"Red Square, parts 3 and 4" are coming!