Friday, May 28, 2010

God's Heart for Orphans (part 1)

Paul tells us we live in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we are to appear as lights, holding fast the word of life.

We see Paul's view of the world manifest in many ways. We see it in a world that cares more for baby seals than it does for babies. We see it in a world that discards and dismisses the elderly when it ought to reverence them. And, we see it in a world where 147 million orphans grow up without a loving and secure family.

Biological siblings Cassandra (7), Speedy (5-1/2), and Jaynie (8) at their orphanage in Russia in September 2001 just before we brought them home to America

It seems these things ought not to be. But at the heart of all these issues lies the truth that our ways don’t match God’s ways. Our thoughts don’t follow God’s thoughts. Our hearts don’t reflect God’s heart.

So, as we try to make sense of the tragic events that culminated in a woman placing her adopted son all alone on an airplane to send him back to Russia… as we consider recent statements by Christian leaders that seemed to discourage adoption… as we read or hear secular humanist answers to the tough challenges faced by adoptive families… as even Bible-believing Christians give in to fear and doubt about whether or not to take on the challenge of adoption… we must look to His word and His ways for direction, courage and the grace to obey.

If we are to appear as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, we must hold fast the word of life. We must understand God’s heart and seek by grace to follow His ways.

Adoption is hard. But that shouldn't surprise us. After all, just take a moment to reflect on what you know of God's word. Does God call His people to do easy things? No! He calls them to do kingdom work... and that is not for the faint of heart.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing what I have seen in God's word about His heart for orphans. My hope is that these brief glimpses of His word will encourage those who need encouragement, convict those who need conviction, and point everyone back to the only source of truth about adoption – God’s Word.

Part 1
Throughout Scripture God reveals that He has a special heart for the alien (or stranger), the widow and the orphan. We should not lose sight of any of these special classes of what He calls the vulnerable - they are all important to Him. However, for the purposes of addressing some of the un-Biblical thinking we read and hear about adoption, these writings will focus on showing God's heart for orphans.

One of the first things we learn from His word is that God views orphans as very important. He has deep feelings of compassion and concern for them, and He promises to be their father, care-taker and protector. A brief sampling of this shows up in the book of Psalms:

  • “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely;” Ps 68:5-6a
  • “The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.” Ps 146:9

His depth of passion for protecting orphans and the vulnerable is unmistakable. One of the first specific references to orphans makes this abundantly clear to the nation of Israel:

  • “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” Ex 22:22-24

Given that God views orphans as very important and worthy of His special care... even to the point of making a dire threat to those who would mistreat them... what else can His children do but conclude the same?

In part 2 we'll explore what this means about God's expectations of His children regarding the orphans and the vulnerable.

~Mr. Beaver

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It was windy here

We awoke yesterday morning to this sight:



This is actually the second time this has happened to us. Seven years ago another swingset blew over in a nighttime thunderstorm. Thankfully, both times our house was undamaged.




In the afternoon, Poochita and I went out to survey the damage.



Princess Bink was eager to have everything fixed right away and was perplexed when we explained that there was no "Swingset Repair Man" to call up.





Below is a favorite quote of mine and something I still need to work on. Even splintered playsets bring out the "Why, Lord??" attitude in me.

"Christian Contenment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracioius frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition." (Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment)



I love those words, "God's wise and fatherly disposal"! Praise Him that He is gracious and compassionate and does not reward us according to what we deserve.

~Lissie

Monday, May 24, 2010

Last Year's Bible Bee was Life-Changing

Note: This is a bit last minute, but we wanted to make sure all our family and friends were aware that registration is underway for the 2nd annual Bible Bee. Joe and Lissie participated last year and found the experience life-changing! Even more of the family will be participating this year. We hope many of you will read Joe and Lissie's impressions below and check out the website for yourselves (link below). But hurry! Registration for the National Bible Bee ends June 1, 2010.


The Bible Bee scripture memory competition profoundly impacted my sister and me when we participated last year. Now we hope many will take advantage of the same wonderful opportunity this year. There are numerous good reasons people should compete in the Bible Bee, and here are two reasons that were especially important to me.

First, the selected scriptures for the competition proved to be very helpful. Prior to the competition, I had been memorizing chapters of Scripture. However, the passage length for the Bible Bee ranged from one verse to twenty verses, and this variety allowed me to call them to mind in more situations than if I only knew chapters. Also, the Bible Bee coordinators selected from many different books of the Bible, keeping my interest in memorizing God's Word high.

Second, the Bible Bee study materials taught me a method for studying the Bible that has allowed me to mine it for greater treasures. Before I participated in the Bible Bee, I would read a passage of Scripture and see the main point it conveyed, but after that my time spent with God would tend to stagnate. Now that I learned this method for Bible study, my time in God's Word is filled with interest, discovery, and most importantly, greater intimacy with God.

I have only mentioned two of the many reasons I enjoyed and benefited from the Bible Bee. Now that the Bible Bee is open for registration again this year, I hope many people will take this chance to deepen their relationship with God!

-Joe


As soon as I heard about the Bible Bee, I knew I wanted to participate. I had no idea what a blessing the Bible Bee would prove to be!

1) The Bible Bee showed me I had not been as diligent as I could have been in Scripture Memory. It pushed me to new levels of memorizing and meditating on God's word.

2) The significant amount of time studying Scripture forced me to think less of my own thoughts and more of God's. I realized how much I had allowed my mind to wander in selfish directions.

3) Both at the Local and National levels, Joe and I had the opportunity to fellowship with likeminded families and specifically with people our age who passionately loved God's Word. I was challenged and encouraged by these people.

4) I was often convicted. The Holy Spirit used the memory passages to show me my feeble love for God and His perfect and holy Scripture. Also, these passages often confronted me in time of tempation and pricked me when I was ready to sin. I was also confronted with the reality that I was prone to memorizing without applying it to my life (major ouch!), and reminded that I need to be a doer of the Word, and not just a hearer. Although painful, this conviction has drawn me closer to my Savior, and I am grateful that God used the Bible Bee in that way.

5) Most importantly, the challenge that this competition presented forced me to examine my motivation behind why I memorized Scripture and also reminded me of the right motivation to write His word on my heart. I want to treasure, thirst, and pant after the Bible as a way to know God better.

~ Lissie

Friday, May 21, 2010

Through the eyes of a child... flowers, feathers and fun



We went flower shopping! Gigglebox, Princess Bink, Tinkerbell, Cassandra, Jaynie and Speedy all helped me pick out the perfect flowers for our flower pots today. We picked out some pink impatiens in many different shades, some large Geraniums, some vines and a couple spikes, not to mention a few Gerber daisies (my favourite!)






Once we had all of our flowers picked out, we went inside to pay for them. I kept Cassandra with me and sent the other kids off to find weed killer, asking them to hurry. But I paid for the flowers, walked out of Bomgaars and loaded the Suburban without seeing hide nor hair of them. Cassandra and I decided to investigate. After a little searching, this is what we found:



They had discovered the chicks and the ducklings and baby turkeys!


When we checked out the second time, this time with weed killer, Princess Bink stood right with me. She told me:
"When I have kids, I'm going to come back here and buy those baby chicks for my kids."
I laughed and explained that those baby chicks wouldn't be babies by the time she had kids, but undaunted as ever, she said, "Well, I'll come back and get the grown-up chicks then!"
The cashier had a hard time not laughing.





As we walked out, Tinkerbell came to me with an excited twinkle in her eye.
She asked me, "Those were really only five dollars or so?" as if she couldn't believe the price tag.
But I knew what she was thinking. I asked her where she thought she could keep a duckling and she said, "On top of my dresser in a cardboard box so that the dog won't get it!"
"Oh no, you can't keep it inside!" I laughed.
"Well, I'll keep it on the porch, in the back!" she said, still grinning.
"What about all the wild animals?" I asked.
"Oh....well, I'll keep it on the deck!"
And on and on it went. When we got home, I told Mom that she was going to have at least three children ask her for a duckling or a chick or even a baby turkey. I think Tinkerbell is still trying to figure out a way to spend her money on a duckling of her own.
~ Tessa

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sister Time


Caught this sweet moment between Lissie and Princess Bink as we were traipsing up the street to a neighbor's yard to take a few more senior photos of twins Lissie and Joe. How grateful to the Lord I am that He's taken children from two different continents and turned them into siblings!

--Mrs. Beaver
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Breakfast Picnic

We went to a park today...


for breakfast. We love our breakfast picnics;

especially the bagels.


Our favorite place for breakfast picnics is a lovely garden and pavillion nestled on the edge of a local river

Tinkerbell perched herself on the pavillion railing to enjoy breakfast.

Everyone helped to clean up, but we had knights in armor to bear the greatest burdens...
Princess Bink has two strong and handsome brothers. We hope she will soon have three!

~Lissie

Thursday, May 13, 2010

God Provides!

Here's a look at cooking in our family--SUPERSIZED!!!!

First, supersized cooking begins with massive shopping! We shop by separating into four teams, filling four shopping carts to the brim and then simultaneously checking out in 4 parallel checkout lanes. Mrs. Beaver hovers nearby, poised to swipe a credit card in each checkout lane at just the right time.

Next, supersized cooking requires the use of supersized recipes! Our mighty feasts take the work of an entire team.

Cassandra led a team of willing helpers in creating this 17-pound, quadrupled lasagna masterpiece! This family of 11 is learning to cook for 14!

To provide context for the size of this gigantic pan, the smaller pan in the pictures below is a 9 x 13:





All these things considered, I almost can't believe the amount of food God provides for our family daily, but somehow He does!

God has faithfully provided food and other necessaries for us since we first began our adoption journey. From this we should believe that He is willing and able to provide all we need as we continue the journey. It's tempting to worry as new trials confront us, such as waiting to see what changes the Russian and American governments will impose on adoptions. However, God has an abundant track record of caring for our needs, and His past provision will comfort us in the days, months, and years ahead.

"Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
- Ps 116:7

- Joe

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dear God

Six weeks after our second Russian trio joined our family, we recorded a video of Tinkerbell and Gigglebox praying in their new language. We saw God's hand in how fast they were able to pick up English and become adjusted to our family. Notice Gigglebox peeking at her desert partway through the prayer, and also their beautiful accent (The prayer is, "Dear God, thank you for this food. In Jesus' name, Amen).

video

The second video is Princess Bink repeating a prayer after Dad. Well, sort of. Her language skills were minimal in both Russian and English at that point, but one thing is obvious-she sure thought that chocolate pudding pop looked good!

video

I can't wait to hear my new siblings pray to the Father of the Fatherless in their new language.

--Lissie

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Happy People

Earlier this month our family had the opportunity to spend two days with a group of people who were among the warmest, friendliest and happiest we've ever encountered. We couldn't stop talking about it as we drove off. Now, we've certainly been with smaller groups of people that deserved a similar description, but this was a group of more than 1,300!

Why did this group radiate joy? I've pondered that question since leaving "Summit VI," a conference hosted by the Christian Alliance for Orphans (http://chrisitianallianceblog.org/?p=668) in Minneapolis. I think I may have found a clue in Isaiah 58. There God lays out for His people what the ESV Study Bible calls the "practical implications of biblical faith" (pg. 1346). He insists that the Israelites' relationship with Him is not to be heralded by empty fasting. Instead, their encounter with Him through fasting is to result in a life of service to those whom Jesus would call "the least of these."

The Lord says,
"Is this not the fast that I choose,
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?"

What comes next in this passage is a truly remarkable list of God's promises for those whose relationship with Him is turned outward in service to others, interspersed with some additional calls to forsake sin and meet the needs of the vulnerable:

"Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail." (8-11)

What a list! Healing, strength, defense against depression, answer to prayer, protection, never-ending guidance, and the list goes on...

I believe the people we interacted with at Summit VI are happy people because they have experienced God's glorious promises as they "pour themselves out" to meet the pressing needs of fatherless children. Their light is "breaking forth like the dawn" because they have experienced the care of the Father of the Fatherless as they care for orphans. These people, who live sacrificially, have discovered a great irony of our God--in giving, we gain.

--Mrs. Beaver

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pray for the Orphans

Dear Readers,

This is a plea for prayer cover for the May 12 meeting of the Russian and American governments regarding the status of American adoption of Russian orphans.

Background
As you may know, a few weeks ago an American adoptive parent placed her adopted Russian son on a plane unattended and sent him back to Russia with a note saying she was returning him. The Russian government was naturally outraged, and has demanded more rights to protect Russian adoptees. They have threatened to completely halt American adoptions if their demands are not met.

On May 1 they submitted a draft agreement to the US State Department in preparation for face-to-face negotiations on May 12. While that meeting is not likely to be the final meeting on the subject, the tenor and outcome of that meeting is very important. If Russian negotiators do not see substantial progress in the discussions, they may recommend suspension of all American adoptions indefinitely.

Prayer Request
We covet your prayers for the negotiators to have the mind of Christ in their discussions, even if they do not know Him personally. We ask that you would pray for them to place the best interests of the children above their own political interests. We ask that you would pray for them to allow adoptions to continue, acknowledging the far greater good that has resulted from these adoptions than the evil associated with a few cases. Finally, we ask that you would join us in praying specifically for our 3 children, as the oldest could get caught in their system if the issue isn’t resolved before her 16th birthday.

- Mr. Beaver

You have now been summoned to give up your fingerprints

I opened the mailbox this afternoon to find a large stack of mail. Now, this wasn't just a somewhat sizeable amount of mail, this was truly a Goliath-sized delivery. However, my hair was in my face from a strong spring wind, so without identifying what the stack contained, I grabbed it and ran. I clutched the pile tightly as I hurried down the driveway, knowing that if the mail slipped out of my arms it would probably end up a state away before it stopped.

Examination of the mail soon revealed that something more exciting than bills had been delivered. Ten crisp envelopes bore the seal of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services, and the contents invited the five adult members of our family to a fingerprinting appointment in early June. Yes, each of us received two letters, although I'm not sure why. Maybe they sent an invitation for each hand, although in that case I'm not sure what you would do if you only got one letter.

As each day passes, we long more and more to bring our siblings home. How can you miss someone you've never met? I don't know, but I do know that we love and miss our three precious siblings still in Russia. We eagerly await the day they come home. This fingerprinting will bring us one babystep closer to that day, and a large mailstack could never have been more welcome.


~Lissie

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Hated Mother's Day

As we went through month after month followed by year after year of infertility, I grew to hate one day above all others--Mother's Day. Going to church on that day was the worst part...smiling moms proudly cradling beautiful babies...the pastor's inevitable call for the mothers in the congregation to stand following his reminder to the congregation of the nobility of the role of motherhood in God's plan for His people...my own broken dream searing my heart as the other women in the church stood while I remained rooted to the cold, hard pew. I hated Mother's Day.

Who would have ever guessed that someone who faced such desolation and hopelessness would wake tomorrow with the happy realization that she's the mother of nine and will soon, Lord willing, be the mother of TWELVE?!? And nearly 20 years into being a mother, I love, love, LOVE my role as a mom even more than I thought I would during those difficult years of waiting.

I'm so grateful to God that he did eventually allow me the opportunity to experience pregnancy and even give birth to twins. But I'm equally grateful that the Lord has placed another 10 children in our lives through adoption. I never would have chosen this path without the blessing of infertility. Yes, I now think of our infertility as a blessing. From barrenness to bounty, my life is the story of God's plan being better than my own.

"He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!" ~Psalm 113:9

~Mrs. Beaver

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Transformation

This week we celebrated Jaynie's 17th birthday. Jaynie is the oldest of the six children we've thus far adopted from Russia. She is the oldest of the trio of siblings we adopted nearly nine years ago. She was eight when first met her in her orphanage, and, in all honesty, she kind of scared us. She was a street child through and through. She was tough. She was hard. She was self-assured. She was distant. She was challenging to correct. She was anything but a girly-girl.

As we entered into that first Russian adoption we knew enough to understand why Jaynie had a demeanor worthy of the label "Ice Princess." This little eight year old had already lived through more suffering than most adults ever endure. Jaynie and her siblings had been so neglected by their parents that they'd lived under a bridge for a time with her as their leader. When Jaynie entered our family her torso was ridged with stretch marks that told the story of hunger so profound that her belly had at some point protruded. A grandmother that Jaynie and her siblings loved had been forced to take them to an orphanage because her health was too poor to care for the three young children. However, that same grandmother felt capable of caring for two older siblings so our trio was forever separated from their sister and brother who remain in Russia. Upon entering the orphanage, Jaynie had had to have her head shaved to eliminate the lice that made her scalp their home.

As we entered that first adoption of a trio of Russian siblings, we also knew enough about our God to know that He was capable of tranforming a life. This week with our celebration of Jaynie's 17th, we joyfully acknowledge that He has done just that (despite our weaknesses as her parents!).

Truly, you'd never recognize Jaynie as the same child. She no longer holds people at a distance but instead approaches others with a wide open heart. She has a special gift with young children and collects groups of them like a Pied Piper. She not only enjoys people but she yearns to help others. When someone is new to a group, she rushes to make sure they are included. The little girl who once bristled at the slightest effort to change her behavior now yields to our correction. She is delightfully feminine, but most importantly her beauty is as much inside as it is out as she grows in her desire to spend time in God's word and yield to Him as He molds her into the image of His son.

We're so proud to be her parents!

--Mrs. Beaver

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Celebrating 5 Years

April 28 was the 5 year anniversary of Tinkerbell, Gigglebox, and Princess Bink's homecoming. So, while we were in Minneapolis for the conference, we decided to celebrate.


Dad and Mom took us to the Mall of America, and we did something fun, crazy, and out of the ordinary- we rode a roller coaster!


Before the ride-Jaynie, wondering if this was a crazy idea.

This was the wild kind of roller coaster, the kind that goes straight up and then drops so suddenly you wonder where you left your stomach. This also happened to be the kind that went upside down several times and the kind through which Tessa screams her loudest (I know, because I was sitting next to her). This was the first roller coaster any of our Russians (from Jaynie down) had ever experienced, and although they emerged a little pale and dizzy, they loved it and still can't stop talking about it!

Princess Bink didn't quite make the height requirements for the first roller coaster, but she still had her chance. After the older members of the family had staggered away from the wild ride, she and Mom boarded another roller coaster. Princess Bink's face as they rode round and round was one of amazement, nervousness, and delight.

Princess Bink, tense and unsure of whether she approved. Mom? Having a great time. That picture is visible proof of how blessed we kids are-our mom knows how to have fun. She's the best!

We can't imagine life without our girls. They are happy, creative, and loving. They are each other's best friends and love nothing more than to spend time with each other. Tinkerbell and Gigglebox love to read and often consume a chapterbook a day, and Princess Bink is becoming a better reader all the time. The girls often put on plays and puppet shows for us, create elaborate "houses" outside, and lovingly care for their dolls. Our 2nd Russian trio has a love both for Russia, their Motherland, and for America, their new home.


Tinkerbell, Gigglebox, and Princess Bink on their way home to America 5 years ago!

Thank you Lord for the way you have knit our family together.

~Lissie