Monday, February 28, 2011

You Can Make a Difference, Part 1

Mr & Mrs. Beaver:

Getting in some steamy summer fun in the late evening on the day, July 16, 2001, on which we meet
 Jaynie, Cassandra, and Speedy. The building to the right is where the 300 kids ate their meals.
The buiding behind was home to classrooms and dormitories.
Since we adopted our first trio of older Russian children, Jaynie (8), Cassandra (7) and Speedy (5-1/2) nearly a decade ago, a growing number of Christian families have joined the movement to rescue the fatherless. With this change, there are also more and more opportunities for all of us to come alongside adoptive families to help met some of their needs and in doing those small tasks, make all the difference.

Having now adopted three trios of older children we can say from experience that those of us who adopt need the support of a loving community that is willing to come alongside us to help. We've all heard those stories on the news of adoptions, especially of older children gone wrong--sometimes terribly wrong. It doesn't have to be that way. It just may be that some small act on your part may be the difference between an adoptive family thriving or withering.

Here are five suggestions for things you can do. You certainly don't have to do them all. Any of these gestures will be experienced by the adoptive family as the fervent love 1 Peter 1:18 describes.

1) If you hear of a family that is considering adopting, ask God to grant them wisdom. Pray that they will be protected from the fear that so often paralyzes couples who entertain thoughts of adding another child through adoption. Pray that the Lord will increase their faith. Pray that He will help them to trust His plan for their lives.

2) If you know a family in the midst of an adoption, pray for them. Ask them regularly how you can best pray specifically at that point. As their adoption proceeds, their prayer needs will be continually shifting. Consider even organizing a prayer team that will stay active on their behalf long term.

3) Think before you make remarks about adoption to adoptive families. Those comments can prove to be hurtful or stir up fear. When we were in the process of adopting, Jaynie, Cassandra and Speedy, one of my friends who had been watching too many scary episodes of the Oprah Show, leaned close to me and whispered, "Are you going to put the knives away?" Ouch!

And no adoptive family needs to hear about the story of so-and-so whose adoptive child is a terror and whose family has lost hope. Adoptive families need your faith--not fuel for their fear. Adoption almost always turns out beautifully! God's power and grace are enough. Reminders of His willingness to give grace, encouragements about His ability to save and rescue are what adoptive families need to hear.

4) If a family is adopting internationally and they are nearing the date for their travel, they will most likely be required to take humanitarian aid with them. Ask what you can contribute. The adoption has probably already cost them thousands of dollars. Your help with the aid will probably be a financial help to them, as well as an emotional encouragement.

5) If a family is adopting and has a blog, follow their blog. They will be encouraged that someone is "listening" as they share their hearts about their new child or children. They will be grateful that you are taking time to follow what's so dear to them. They'll appreciate you putting in the effort to learn about the circumstances of the fatherless children in the country where their "baby" lives and, probably, suffers. You can rejoice when they rejoice and weep when they weep. You can post a "comment," providing a real sense of community for the adoptive family. It's easy to feel very alone when you're adopting.

Repeatedly, God's word commands His people to see to the care of orphans. If your circumstances don't allow you to adopt right now, you can still do so much that will contribute to the long-term success of an adoption. The orphan will be blessed. The adoptive family will be blessed. and, my guess is, that you'll probably be blessed as well. Treat these ideas as nothing more than a spring board to your unique ways to help adoptive families.

If you have ideas, post them in our comments section for others to see.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Couple of "Firsts"

Mrs. Beaver:

One of the great joys of adopting older children is getting to introduce them to things they've never experienced. We've had a couple of those "firsts" in the past 24 hours.

Oksana slept in foam curlers for the first time last night, thanks to help from her sister Cassandra. Oksana was not alone in wearing rollers to bed. Princess Bink joined her in curlers last night and curls today.

A "first" that involved all three of our new children, Daria, Alexander and Oksana,
was making a trip to an American libraray, a place their new siblings love.

Daria, Alexander and Oksana were delighted to explore the library
and then borrow books.

Each "first" is it's own little milestone as we travel the path to adjustment
following the adoption of our three precious newbies.

We had one more "first" in our house today, although it didn't involve our family.
The members of the Nordstrom family who stayed in the States got their
"first" Skype tonight call from their family members who are in Addis Abba, Ethiopia,
to meet the little girl they are eager to add to their family.

I count it among our "firsts" because the three Nordstroms were at our house for dinner.

We're eager for the Nordstroms to be able to watch their little girl
"Peaches" experience "firsts" here in America!

"Firsts" are so much fun!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Today was THE Day!

Mrs. Beaver:

On the other side of the world in the impoverished nation of Ethiopia, our dear friends, the Nordstroms, met their daughter today. They've been anticipating the moment for nearly fifteen months.

Having walked a similar path during our three international adoptions, we're thrilled for them.

The Nordstroms will go to court on Monday to become the parents of the four-year old, whom they've nicknamed Peaches. Then in about a month they'll return to take "Peaches" home.

These photos were taken at a "Donations Shower" held at our church a couple of weeks ago. (Peaches face has to remain covered in posted photos until all of the legal process is finished.)

The Nordstroms packed four large totes full of supplies for Peach's orphanage in the capitol, Addis Abba, which is called Hannah's Hope. In a way, this allowed all of us to "visit orphans in their distress" (James 1:27). Russ told us during a slide presentation at the shower that the essentials are so scarce in this country where there are 5 million orphans that they wash disposable diapers and reuse them!

The Nordstroms aren't the first from our church to adopt from Ethiopia.
The Henns adopted brothers from the African nation about 3-1/2 years ago.

Here is Buzzard with all of his sons, Oggie, Bear and Dash.

Buzzard returned to Ethiopia in late December on a missions trip to help
Look Development bring internet access to the group's school and orphanage.
He also helped with the construction of a second school building. Buzz also
met with the child that he and his family sponsor through Look Development.

Buzzard's trip fueled the excitement of the Nordstrom's twins,
T-Bird and Rye Bread. The boys, who are 14 and educated at home,
are traveling with their parents on this first trip. Their older sister, Sunshine,
was unable to go due to missing too many days at her public high school.
The family hopes she will be able to travel on the second trip.

During the shower, Jaynie served punch. Cassandra made
a giant chocolate cake (one of Mr. Nordstrom's favorites)
and served it during the party.

If ever there were two girls rooting to get Peaches home,
it's our Jaynie and Cassandra. After all, they know
what its like to be a little girl in an orphange.
Jaynie was eight and Cassandra seven when we adopted them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Mrs. Beaver:

Three months ago today we arrived home from our journey to pick up the three new children we'd gone to court to adopt in Russia. Three months ago day we began life together at home.

As we mark this anniversary, we are overwhelmed by God's goodness. Each of us is doing far better after such a short amount of time than we would have dared to expect. Already we are a cohesive unit. Already we are better off with our three newbies than we were before them. We never realized it, but it was as though we were a rainbow that was missing some of it's colors. Through Daria, Alexander and Oksana, the Lord has filled in what was missing. As a result, there is now more laughter, more fun, more curiosity, more kindness and more generosity to the makeup of our family. Love reigns in our home.

As He so often does, God has gone "above and beyond what all that we could ask or think." (Eph. 3:20)

Our family's togetherness really began during the few days we were all able to spend in Moscow as the adoption was being finalized. What a blessing that trip was, truly a gift from our good God! Here are a few photos from that trip.

Our initial meeting as a family on one of the busiest street in Moscow.
Mr. Beaver, who arrived in Russia three day before me, kept it a
secret from the new kids that I was brining all their new siblings along.

Tessa and Alexander within their first hour together

Daria's bliss as she's sandwiched between her brand new oldest sisters, Tessa and Lissie
During our time together in Moscow we enjoyed food and fellowship
at McDonalds. Little did we know what an impression this would make on
Alexander who became passionate in his love of the cheesburger produced
under the Golden Arches. Since coming to America he angles for a McDonalds
cheeseburger at every opportunity. In his broken English he says,
"I Mr. Cheeseburger."

Daria reading the Chronicles of Narnia in Russian to Jaynie in one of the flats we rented.
We would quickly learn that Daria is a skilled, voracious reader.
We wish we'd bought more books in Russian for her while we had the chance.

I had intended to include more photos, but I'm TIRED--I took 11children clothing shopping this afternoon!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Favorite Photo: All Dressed Up

Mrs. Beaver:

Tomorrow we will celebrate three months as a family of fourteen.

One of my favorite photos from the quarter-of-a-year we've spent together is this one taken when we attended the local symphony's Christmas program. I'm certain that attending a symphony concert was one of the many "firsts" that these former orphans have experienced since departing Russia.

Everyone got dressed to the nines that evening. I loved capturing my two new beauties in their velvet-and-satin finery just before the concert began. They were the very personification of elegance, in both attire and behavior.

I don't believe anyone would have guessed that night that the two girls had been living in an orphanage just three weeks earlier. At the children's home, all of the clothing is rotated among the children. No child owns their own clothes. What a delight it has been to outfit my new princesses in their very own pretty dresses! I thank the Lord for that honor.

BTW, the nasty sore on Oksana's forehead in not the result of a bad first encounter with a curling iron in the hands of her mom or a sister. Oksana has loved sledding this winter. One afternoon our hill was especially slick, and Oksana ran into a tree at the bottom. Actually, I learned later that she ran into the tree four times. Her siblings told me she laughed the first three times before giving into tears on the fourth encounter. However, after a few tears she grabbed her sled to race down the slope again. As her wound healed, Oksana never called attention to it or complained. One of Oksana's best traits is that she's a happy-hearted trooper.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes


Yesterday I had an errand to run. I thought it would just be a chore to complete, and then I’d come home. Little did I know that I’d get a special companion and a quiet message from God.

As I was letting my mom know where I was going, Oksana heard that I was going to drive somewhere in the car, and she excitedly asked my mom if she could go with me. When the answer was yes, she ecstatically hugged Mom, then hugged me. As we walked toward the garage, she put her hand in mine.

Okay, a little confession here: I stand a bit taller knowing my little sister wants to spend time with me that much! I enjoyed her company on the errand, and I think she liked the chance to see some of the rolling countryside.

During this episode I had a flash of inspiration. I’m sure it was a gentle message from God. The thought was this: Oksana was willing to go wherever I was headed, as long as she could go with me. I don’t have enough Russian and she doesn’t have enough English yet that she could have really understood the place I intended to go or what I was going to do there. She just had a simple trust that I would take care of her, and she wanted to be with me.

As I thought about our situation, I realized that God wants His children, to do what Oksana did. He wants us to long to spend time with Him. He wants us to trust Him so implicitly that we’re willing to go wherever He’s going and do whatever He’s doing. He wants us to be excited about being near Him.

Since Oksana so readily exhibited all of these behaviors toward her fallible, human brother, maybe this is what Jesus meant when He said that we needed to be converted and become like children (Matt 18:1-6). When compared to my often lukewarm walk of faith, this kind of trust in God puts a beautiful ring to one of the names He lets us call Him: Father (John 20:17).

The Futility of Wrong Hopes

Mrs. Beaver:

We're going through a hope-shattering time in our family. That is if I'm putting my hope in my children or my circumstances. I know this well because I've put my hope in my children for most of the 20+ years I've been a parent.

Even deeper than my thoughts--somewhere soul deep and hardly recognizeable (to me at least)--is the dream that I will have perfectly-behaved children or least kids who avoid any "big" sins and are then deeply repentant when they do wrong. I have a dream that parenting will be fairly easy--even the parenting of our older adopted kiddos who have come to us so very broken as a result of torn-apart families that are no fault of their own.

I been oh-too prone to get angry if things haven't followed my plan for family life. My anger, for the most part, has been a quiet, seething sort of beast which is fed by thoughts like, "I deserve better!"the truth is: I don't deserve better. I deserve eternal suffering because I, too, am a sinner.

Both my irritation and my tendancy to be critical are fed by the thoughts like, "How could you be so stupid?" (We're not allowed to say that word in our house, but I've sure thought it!)  and "How could you do this" and "How could you make this choice again?!?"

If I'm thinking biblically, I know there is no room for this haughty irritation (Eccl. 7:8b,9) when I, too, am a sinner. In order for it to be bilical, my response to the sin of my children must be compassionate humility.

My long-trusted sources of hope have failed me. I want another source for my hope. I'm tired of hoping in people and circumstances, only to ride a roller coaster of emotion as I'm lifted up on the wings of my hope or crushed by it.

I'm ready to hope in God. "My hope is in Thee" (Ps. 39:7b) I don't fully understand yet how to do this, but I've asked my King to teach me. (Jn. 14:26)

This passage from The Valley of Vision (pg. 335) probably holds at least part of the answer:
"O my Saviour,
Make it my chiefest joy to study thee
   meditate on thee,
   gaze on thee,
   sit like Mary at thy feet
   lean like John on thy breast
   appeal like Peter to thy love,
   count like Paul all things dung."

I want my hope to be in God. He, and, He alone, is worthy of my hope. He and, He alone, can provide joy in the face of any pain or in the midst of any circumstance. I want my "chiefest joy" to be Jesus!

If my hope is in God, I know that He will give me a lavish love for my children, no matter what they've done. He will make it possible for me to demonstrate a rich, luxurious forgiveness that covers the sin like a thick blanket (Proverbs 10:12, 17:9). He will thaw my small, tight-pinched, icy heart that's been so focused on me and cause it to grow. My heart will little-by-little become more like His heart. My kindness, modeled on His kindness, will stand a better chance of drawing my children in to my rescuing Saviour's arms. And that is what I want most of all!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"You're My Mama..."

Mrs. Beaver:

As our family of 14 goes through the adjustment inherent to adding three new children, any indication that the transition is going well is a big encouragement. This morning as we home schooled, I was blessed to get two doses of encouragement.

Each morning before breakfast the kids and I set aside a 15-minute period to memorize scripture. We've folded our recently adopted kiddos into this family routine.

I normally work with Oksana, but this morning I got an urgent phone call. When I came out of my bedroom, I caught sight of Jaynie cuddling with Oksana helping helping her memorize the first passage we've started all our older adoptees on, Ephesians 6:1-3: "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."

I was sitting on the stairs when Scripture-memory time ended, and I invited Oksana onto my lap. As I held her, she looked into my eyes and said in Russian, "You are my mama." Never has the title mama sounded so sweet as it did coming from this precious little girl who never knew the care of a mother until 12 weeks ago! I feel honored to be her mama. It's deeply pleasing to know she's pleased with the arrangement, too.

My heart has been full of thanksgiving to the Lord all day long.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sour Cream Delight

Mrs. Beaver:

The title of this post sounds like the name of recipe.

Instead, sour cream delight describes an emotional state. Sour cream delight is what Daria recently experienced when confusion in multiple-team grocery shopping for our large family resulted in much more sour cream being purchased than we intended.

Daria's reaction to our large sour cream purchase was down-right silly. However, those tubs represent something more than silliness to her new parents. To the two of us, they represent God's unfathomable goodness.

You see, the Lord has placed in our midst a teenager who loves to cook. For Daria, the act of cooking dishes that remind her of her motherland is good "therapy." Her adjustment to a new family, new country, new language, and new culture has gone remarkably smoothly. Just twelve weeks into all these adjustments, she is happy and content. We believe her skill in the kitchen and her desire to spend time there is contributing to her sense of well being. Her cooking is a great way for her to pass time during this season where she's still just beginning to communicate in English. Daria is also just starting to build friendships outside the family. She has few time commitments beyond her home school curriculum.

However, it isn't just Daria who benefits when she gets creative in the kitchen. She's a good cook. Her efforts in the kitchen are delicious, but they're also a genuine contribution to keeping our family of 14 running smoothly. She's even able to cook in massive quantities. Daria isn't a bit daunted by feeding a small army.

Because of the language barrier, we don't yet understand how she learned her culinary skills. But one thing we do understand is that she has been blessed by the way God wired her, and we have been blessed by the way God wired her. She's a perfect fit for our family!

We made what seemed to us like a radical decision when we began the adoption process yet again a little over a year ago. We decided to add a girl in her mid teens. Little did we know that our God had gone before us to prepare a youth who, while perfectly suited to our family's needs, would also adjust well while lovingly helping out. Our vision for God's goodness was way too small!

Sour cream is a comfort food for this former orphan who's has been cooking up a storm in our kitchen since we adopted her from Russia in late November. Whether it's a fruit salad, a vegetable salad, a main dish or a sweet, sour cream seems to find it's way into every dish. We've wondered whether sour cream is common in dishes across the enormous country of Russia, or if, perhaps, it's more of a regional favorite, like collard greens or grits are in the southern part of America.

It doesn't really matter. The future is rosy. Daria is happy working in our kitchen. The rest of us enjoy and benefit from her skill. I'll continue to purchase sour cream, and I'll continue to thank God for the daughter I already love so very much who loves to cook.

Daria with blini--delicious Russian
pancakes similar to thick crepes 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day: Redefining Love

Mrs. Beaver:

On this Valentine's Day let us openly wrest the definition of "love" away from our culture. We must yank the word out of the hands of Hollywood where it is cheapened, marred and squandered.

Let us look instead to the Source for the term's definition. God is love (1 John 4:8). Therefore, it only makes sense that we would study God's word to clarify our thoughts on love and to make sure that our thinking has not become contaminated by the cultural influnces that are always pressing in on us.

Proverbs 10:12 openly contrasts love and its opposite, hate:

"Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all transgressions."

I have been challenged to rethink my concept of love by 19th century Bible commentator Charles Bridges' exposition on this short passage in his book Proverbs:

"A simple but forcible contrast! Hatred, however varnished by smooth pretence, is the selfish principle of man. Like a subterraneous fire, it continually stirs up mischief, creates or keeps alive rankling coldness, disgusts, dislikes, 'envyings and evil surmisings;' carps at the infirmities of others; aggravates the least slip; or resents the most trifling, or even imaginary, provocation. These strifes are kindled to the great dishonour of God and the marring of the beauty and consistency of the gospel. Is not here abundant matter for prayer, watchfulness, and resistance?

Let us study 1 Corinthians 13 in all its detail. Let it be the looking-glass for our hearts, and the standard of our profession. Love covers, overlooks, speedily forgives and forgets. Full of candour and inventiveness, it puts the best construction on doubtful matters, searches out any palliation, does not rigidly eye, or wantonly expose a brother's faults; nor will it uncover them at all, except so far as may be needful for his ultimate good. To refrain from gross slander, while abundant scope is left for needless and unkind detraction, is not covering sin. Nor is the "seven times forgiveness" the true standard of love, which, like its Divine Author, covers all sins. And who does not need the full extent of this covering? What is our brother's all against us, compared with our all against God? And how can we hesitate to blot out a few pence, who look for the covering of the debt of ten thousand talents? Oh! let us 'put on the Lord Jesus' in his spirit of forbearing, disinterested, sacrificing love - "Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (pgs. 97,98) 
On that note, the 14 of us wish you a Happy Valentine's Day. May you love and be loved--as the Author of Love defines it!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Prized Bow...

Mrs. Beaver:

Yesterday I got to watch as our oldest daughter, Tessa, was transformed by a special hairdo into a "princess for a day" in anticipation of her upcoming wedding.

The sight of Tessa in her special hairdo took me back to October when I got to watch as our youngest daughter, Oksana, was transformed by a special hairdo into a "princess for a day" in celebration of her adoption.


After a grueling day and a half of testimony in a Russian courtroom, Mr. Beaver and I heard the words we longed for. The judge declared us the parents of Daria (15), Alexander (11) and Oksana (6).

Once the court's decree was handed down, the two of us rode with our new children, as well as the orphanage's director and social worker to the kids' orphanage. There we were deeply privleged to get to spend five hours with Daria and Alexander as our tour guides.

When they took us into the area of the building where the youngest children--including Oksana--resided, we arrived just in time to get to watch a young helper weaving an elaborate bow into our little girl's long, silky hair.

That afternoon as we watched, the deft fingers of the young worker wove finery
into the hair of all the girls in the preschool area.

All of the little girls got bows that day, but only one little girl got the elaborate white bow...

...and only one preschool child got parents that day.


Tessa will don that special "princess" hairdo again to celebrate her dream-come-true as she marries her Prince Charming in March. 

Oksana will never don the enormous, "princess" bow again, but that's okay. She is celebrating her dream-come-true every day. She's been granted what orphans all around the world wish for and dream about... parents.

Does the Lord want to use you in 2011 to make an orphan's dream come true?