Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Home for Eleven Months

Since this week marks the ninth anniversary of my adoption, I wanted to share some of my past.

Janie, Speedy and I lived in this orphanage in Zhukovka, Russia, after our parents' rights were terminated for failure to care for us. We were really blessed. We had a wonderful director named Valentina, who loved us kids. The facilities were well cared for and clean.

The building on the left was our meal hall where we ate three meals a day. You picked up a filled tray on your way in. No "seconds" were allowed. We ate mashed potatoes and gravy, fish, bread, cucumbers, apples, pickles, radishes, beets, watermelon (called arbus in Russian with a strong roll of the "R"). We also ate Pelmeni, meat or fish dumplings served in soup. Everyone except the younger children (babies through age five) ate in this hall. Jaynie and I would save some bread from our meals for Speedy (who was in the younger kids' room) and take it to him. The building on the right was where we slept.

Jaynie and I slept in bunk beds. I slept on the other side of the room. The orphanage director's goal was to make the children's home feel more like a family than an institution so she mixed up the ages. We slept with 16-year-old Marina.

This room was the younger kids play room, but I liked to go in there and play with Speedy. The room didn't have many toys, but there was a doll that I loved to play with. In this picture I have a giant blue bunny on my head that was supposed to be a decoration rather than a toy.
The big building on the right housed the directors' offices and the class rooms. The building you see here, next to Dad, was the small apartment in which they stayed when they came to meet us in July and also when they came back to pick us up in September.

The door to the apartment is just behind us in this photo. On one of the nights that Dad and Mom stayed there, they asked if we wanted to sleep with them. I was the only one who said yes. The other two slept in their dormitories.
We had a large outdoor recreation area, but most of the equipment was just rusted bars.
However, this swing still worked great and was a favorite of the three of us. Although we
really appreciated the attention he was giving us, we didn't need our future dad to push
because we'd worked out a system for working together that made the thing fly!

This was another part of the playground. This photo is one of my mom's favorites. She gets a kick out of how Dad is entertaining us early Saturday morning while still managing to drink coffee. She also loves that a Babushka was cutting across the orphanage grounds behind us.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Adoption Update--The Call for Which We've Been Waiting

One of the entrances to Red Square--January 2010

We got the call! We've got a court date--October 26! Today was an especially sweet day to get "the call" because today is the 9th anniversary of our adoption of Jaynie, Cassandra, and Speedy. We're so grateful to the Lord!

After we go before a judge, there is a 10-day waiting period before we can bring home the kids. We'll return to the U.S. for those ten days to be with our nine children here. Then we'll fly back to Russia in mid November to bring home our two new daughters and our son.
Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us. We're deeply grateful for your commitment to these three orphaned children!

~Mrs. Beaver on behalf of the whole tribe!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Have a Reason to Go Back

Tomorrow is my ninth anniversary of having been adopted. As I've approached that milestone, I have thought a lot about my time at the orphanage and the other children there.

My dad and me on the evening he'd gone to court in Bryansk, Russia
in September 2001 to make me his daughter.

When Mom and Dad first visited us in our orphanage,
Cassandra, Speedy and I felt hope growing in us as we realized we
might not always have to live here. We had the hope of adoption.

We were soooooo happy! They even brought toys just for us!
We didn't have anything that was OURS.
Even the clothing we wore was traded among
the orphans from one washing to the next.

As Mom and Dad and the women at our orphanage were working on paperwork,
these kids were watching Cassandra, Speedy and me as we interacted with our parents-to-be.

Not everyone had our hope yet. They'd been called to the director's office to have
their photos taken. Perhaps someone would see the pictures and adopt them.

These girls...
...and these kids...
...were some of my closest friends at our large orphanage of about 300 kids.
Most of them were a couple of years older than me. I wonder what ever happened to them.
Did they get adopted? Or are they living on the streets of Russia somewhere?

This is Marina. I loved her! She took care of me and was like a mother to me.
She was 16 and already too old to be adopted;
even though I was only eight I sensed how hopeless her future looked.

 I have been radically blessed by being adopted by wonderful parents and being brought into a family in which I have eight amazing siblings (soon 11). I have so many blessings, and I would like to bless other orphans with the blessings I have been given. The best way to do this is to adopt and I would like to adopt in the future. However, until I have a husband and am ready to be a mom I would like to go to Russia to work with orphans. I want to do more than ensure they have food and clothing. I want to do more than help them to be placed in a family.

The sad fact is that most of the orphans in Russia will never be adopted. And when they age out of the system between ages 16 and 18, statistics show that most turn to things like prostitution, drugs and alcohol, things that will ruin their lives and most likely lead to more orphans.

I would like to help them see that they can still be rescued even if they’re never adopted by human parents. I would like to tell them about Jesus, Someone I never heard about in Russia when I was an orphan there. I had never heard about Jesus or God until I was adopted and brought to America. I would like them to have the opportunity to know Christ. I want to use the blessing of my adoption to tell orphans that they too can be adopted, if not by earthly parents, then by the Heavenly Father. I want to tell them they have a hope that is greater than earthly adoption. The Heavenly Father will never fail them.

As I look back on the past nine years I see more and more that God blessed me so much by sending Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to adopt me and my other siblings. But God did not bless me just so that I would have a better life. He blessed me so that I would live to bless others through the gift of telling them about Jesus. (Psalm 67: 7 “God blesses us that all the ends of the earth would fear Him.”)


Friday, September 24, 2010

Video: Dancing in the Minefields

Mr. Beaver, as we close in on our 27th anniversary, I want you to know I wouldn't want to dance through the minefields with anyone but you. We'll be sailing in the storms again soon with this newest adoption. God has been so faithful in the past. I know he will make our marriage just that much more beautiful in His strength and faithfulness.  I love you more with every passing day.

~Yours forever
Mrs. Beaver

(You'll want to mute our music on the side bar just after the family photos.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Favorite Family Photos: Autumn Hike

In a post earlier this week I mentioned our family's love of hiking. Our favorite season for this activity is fall.

Three years ago the weather was especially favorable, and we went on hike after hike. On one of those ventures, Natasha and Princess Bink were walking through the woods hand-in-hand when I was blessed to capture these images of our 5- and 7-year-olds. Every time I see these two pictures, which are some of my all-time favorites, I'm reminded of that special autumn when we spent so much time just having fun together.

~Mrs. Beaver

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Video: Matthew West - "My Own Little World"

This song really caught our attention as we heard it in the car yesterday. We found it quite convicting.

(You'll want to turn off our music on the sidebar just below Sunshine's photo.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nine kids, Two Dogs and a Mom

There are few things we enjoy as much as a family hike. Today's perfect fall weather inspired us to break from routine. Our home school's "recess" was held at a beautiful county park.

We took both dogs, and 11-year-old Poochita demonstrated for her new protege, Sunshine, her long-standing trick of running up the playground ladder and happily descending the slide, toe-nails screeching.

Even after the demonstration, Sunshine was not keen on following Poochita's lead so Joe tried to help her to see there was nothing to fear. I'm afraid she still wasn't convinced!

As soon as we started walking, Tessa realized that in our rush to get out of the house she'd forgotten to change shoes.

Princess Bink also forgot something, but there are many advantages to having six older sisters.

The hike allowed plenty of sibling bonding-time.

Spontaneity can be so much fun!

Grateful to God for His generous goodness
~Mrs. Beaver

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Musing: The Wearying Wait

View from Princess Bink's orphanage in Klintsy, Russia--April 2005

Many of us who are waiting to adopt are blogging about the experience. A common
theme you'll find in many of these modern-day journals is how hard it is to WAIT.
There's nothing quite like knowing you have a child or, in our case, children, living in
an orphanage.

We continue to await the phone call which will inform us of our court date. As September
slips away, I long to travel to the homeland of my newest children and walk streets like the
one above. I long to hug and hold my "babies." I long to tell them in my extremely limited
Russian, "I love you." I even long to stand before a potentially-cantankerous judge to do our best
to explain why we would want to do something as odd as adding three more children to our
already large family. With all these longings competing for my emotional and mental energy,
the words of the following hymn help coax me back to a proper perspective:

"God shall alone the refuge be,
     And comfort of my mind;
Too wise to be mistaken, He,
     Too Good to be unkind.

In all his holy, sovereign will,
     He is, I daily find,
Too wise to be mistaken, still
     Too good to be unkind.

When I the tempter's rage endure,
     'Tis God supports my mind;
Too wise to be mistaken, sure,
     Too good to be unkind.

When sore afflictions on me lie,
     He is (though I am blind)
Too wise to be mistaken, yea,
     Too good to be unkind.

Hereafter he will make me know,
     And I shall surely find,
He was too wise to err, and O,
    Too good to be unkind."

(By Samuel Medley, from A Selection of Hymns for Public Worship by William Gadsby) quoted in
Too Wise to Be Mistaken, Too Good to Be Unkind: Christian Parents Contend with Autism by Cathy Steere
I am also rehearsing Psalm 119:68: "You are good and what you do is good" (NIV)

I don't understand why this wait has to go on so long, but I do understand that God is good,
God is wise and God is sovereign. I can trust Him. I can trust Him with my children.
He is too wise to be mistaken and too good to be unkind.

~Mrs. Beaver

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our Adoption: Why Choose an Older Child?

When we first began the adoption process late last fall, our plan was to adopt two little girls younger than Princess Bink. However, when we traveled to Moscow last winter and spent time with a group of orphans through the Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project, the Lord opened our hearts to a different destiny for our family.

One of the 11 orphans on the trip was a beautiful girl in her mid teens. She had long brown hair, and rich dark eyes that carried a sparkle even at those times when a smile barely turned up the corners of her mouth. She demonstrated a gentle yet playful and good humored spirit. She moved easily between the adults in the group, her peers and the one little girl who was six years old.

Because she had another host, we watched this poised beauty from a distance as the group of American adults and Russian orphans spent time sightseeing in the capital. Even from that distance she won our hearts. When we learned that she was available for adoption, we jumped at the chance to make her our daughter.

Why add a teen to the family? As we spent time in Moscow with the girl who will be our daughter and her orphaned friends, a truth etched itself on our hearts--in God's sight, every life has value.

While the world often looks unfavorably on teens, let alone teenage orphans, God views them as being of infinite value. Another adoptive family expressed feelings similar to our own when writing about their adoption of a 15-year-old from Albania:
"Why did we choose an older child? Because we became distinctly aware of the fact that she is just that, a child. A child who--although she can walk and talk, go to school, make a bed, and fix a lunch--still needs a mother and father...Because all children need a home base that they can go to no matter how old they get or how far away they move...a home base for when they need reminders of the love and strength that is there for them."
"Her New Home Base," Josh and Christa Nichols, Lifelines,
Bethany Christian Services quarterly orphan care journal

Having adopted six older children already, we're not naive. We know adding a girl who is nearly 16 will bring challenges. But we also know that our God promises to equip us for that to which He calls us. So we look ahead confident that our future will be rich in delight as we watch our teenage daughter blossom. As we wait to go to court in Russia to make her legally ours, the very thought of her depending on us as her parents causes our hearts to swell with happiness.

We eagerly await the moment that we can load this blog with photos of her so that you, too, can see what a beauty she is--inside and out.

~Mr. & Mrs. Beaver, and Lissie

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Taking Time to Be Family

Our family attends an amazing church. We're blessed with solid biblical teaching from our pastor, elders and Sunday school teachers. We're also remarkably blessed to have a church family that really interacts like family, supporting one another...rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep.

One of the events that contributes to the strong fellowship in our church is a family retreat each fall at Twin Lakes Christian Center in rural Iowa.

Last weekend about a hundred of us reveled in the opportunity to carry on this tradition.

Much of the great fellowship took place at meal times.

There was also plenty of time for outdoor activities, like walks in the brisk morning air. Tessa's friend, Aaron, joined our family for this year's retreat.

Joe can make a friend anywhere!

Four times during the weekend we gathered to be taught by one of our missionaries on the theme "Dying to Live" based on Luke 9:23 (see the verse at the top of our blog). Each time we gathered, we sang.

The many kids in our church were a great help in leading the singing.

Between teaching sessions there was a wide selection of recreation options, including tackling a climbing wall in the gym.

Some preferred to watch.

Water fun was another option.

Again, some preferred to watch.

A highlight of the retreat was the baptism of five of our church family by Pastor Dave.
Each them shared their story of having been saved and rescued by Christ.

For our family, our church family is a source of strength, stability and support. We love these people and relish this opportunity each autumn to renew our friendships while focusing on the greatness of our glorious God.

~Mrs. Beaver