Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Blog: Christian Optimistism Bolstered

Mr. and Mrs. Beaver:

Photo credit -- Cassandra

Our oldest son, John (known until now by the blog name "Joe"), has observed a cultural trend. In fact, he hasn't just noticed it. John would tell you that for the past couple of years he's been a participant in this trend. Skepticism has wound its tentacles around the hearts of many, and John knows the monster well. He has shared with us that the temptation to bend toward worldly thinking has held his hope hostage, leaving him frequently joyless and all-too-often vulnerable to irritation and exasperation.

John wants to be more consistently buoyed by belief. He's ready to fight skepticism's sinister power. On the eve of turning twenty, he's determined to stand on the life-producing belief found only in Christ, even as his generation is at risk of being crippled by cynicism. He's going to share his thoughts in a new blog called Surprised by Optimism. We invite you to read his first post. Then follow as he wars against culturally-correct doubt and disbelief. He'll share his struggles, while not losing sight of opportunities for humor. We hope you'll read, then engage in the fight to ward off the quiet creep of cynicism in your own life.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Five Things I've Learned from My Husband

Mrs. Beaver:

Tomorrow is our 28th wedding anniversary. I can't think of a better way to celebrate God's incredible goodness to me than by sharing some of the ways He hs used Mr. Beaver to impact my life:
1. Never go to bed angry. This idea didn't originate with Mr. Beaver, of course. God records this relationship-saving wisdom in the Bible, " not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity" (Ephesians 4:26,27). When we began marriage nearly three decades ago, Jim insisted we live according to this principle. This has made for some late, late nights, getting very few zzzzs. However, the effort has been worth every nearly-sleepless night as it has kept our union free from the growth of bitterness.
2. Never go to bed without relationship reconciliation. This may sound redundant, but it goes a step beyond Point 1. We can tell ourselves we're free of anger and still not be free of our agenda. No matter the depth of disagreement, my husband insists we stay awake until sweetness returns. He requires us to live, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32). Jim's leadership on this point has kept our relationship with each other amiable and gracious. He demands the same standard in our relationships with all 13 children (10 by adoption, two by birth, one by marriage).
3. Never part from a loved one without relationship reconciliation. Again, this may sound redundant. The focus of this Point 3, however, is not saying good-night but saying good-bye. Jim's father died in a plane crash when he was just seven. His mom has spent decades grateful to the Lord that the two of them had this "rule." When my mother-in-law became a widow, she had no regrets. Their relationship was free of fresh bruises and free of unhealed harm from old battles. Jim has insisted that everyone in our family love each other in this same way. Even if we're running out the door late, we must stop and set any damaged relationship right. (See Matthew 5:23,24)
4. The way to a person's heart is through service. I've learned the value of meeting the needs of others by being the object of Mr. Beaver's ongoing selflessness. For as long as I can remember, my husband has walked in from work uttering the same four words to me, "How can I help?" His willingness to put my needs and those of his children before his own desires, even when he's exhausted, has refreshed me nightly and left our kids in awe of their daddy. They "get" what a sacrifice their father's offer is, and they're able to recognize Christ at work in him. The influence his service has had on their hearts has made me to want work harder at honoring Jesus' words: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve..." (Mark 10:45) Mr. Beaver imitates His Saviour beautifully, day in and day out.

5. God's word is worth knowing. On my first birthday after we married, Mr. Beaver gave me a study Bible. My thought was a disgruntled, "Great...what kind of gift is this?" Obviously I didn't understand the value of God's word. However, I've had 28 years to watch as my man has read the Book, studied the Book, memorized the Book, shared the Book with our children in the evenings, and taught the Book at church. I've watched the Book change him. He's grown more tender, humble, gentle, patient, thankful, and compassionate. The more time Mr. Beaver spends in the Bible, the more he prizes God and becomes like God's Son. The Bible says, " newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word". With the many other ways Mr. Beaver could spend his time (he loves to golf and has his private pilot's license), he invests it in knowing God through His word and it shows! Unlike 28 years ago, I now understand the value of knowing God's word and try to follow Mr. Beaver's example in impressing it on my heart (Deuteronomy 11:18)!
I love my husband deeply. I thank God for Mr. Beaver, and for all Mr. Beaver has taught me since we stood at the alter. This list barely scratches the surface. Daily, I watch him. I learn from him. I glean more and more wisdom from him. I hope and pray the Lord will allow me many more years to follow him as he follows God.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jaynie's Home!

Mrs. Beaver:

We're thankful to God--our precious Jaynie is home! She's been the homeschool helper for a couple of American families in a central Asian country since August.

Many of our friends joined us at the airport to celebrate Jaynie's return.

The plane had landed and passengers were disembarking. We were watching for the ONE special face!

Our first glimpse of Jaynie!

A very relieved, happy dad--deeply grateful to God for keeping his girlie safe

Jaynie's first sibling hug came from Cassandra

Jaynie's other siblings quickly took their turns.

 Next, Jaynie greeted friends who'd come to welcome her back

In the midst of happy celebration, Jaynie never strayed far from her daddy

Before long we headed around the corner in our small airport to gather Jaynie's luggage. She was still greeting friends...

(A special thanks to our dear friends the Nisius family for coming all the way from Minneapolis just to share this special day with our family. Here Jaynie is embracing Amanda, whose been like an aunt to Jaynie and her biological siblings since we adopted the three of them in 2001.)

Cassandra stayed close by as Jaynie made her way through the crowds.

I got the very first hug as Jaynie emerged from security, although our reunion wasn't caught on camera. By the time we entered the baggage area, I was eager for another long embrace. I've already received the very best Christmas gift--having my daughter home.

Our family has so much catching up to do. Jaynie's been able to call nearly every day since she left, but the phone calls are usually only a few minutes long. Skype and email have been tremendous blessings, but now we get to hear the details of her amazing adventure.

What a joy to be TOGETHER! And what a great way to start the weekend in which we'll celebrate the birth of Jesus. God become man. King become servant. Baby become suffering Savior.

We wish you the merriest of Christmases!

Photos courtesy of Amanda N. and Kaylee H.

Monday, December 19, 2011

North Shore Afternoon: Mark

Mrs. Beaver:

As I've mentioned before, our family was able to spend Thanksgiving week in Minnesota. The weather was blessedly warm for that time of the year along the shore of Lake Superior. On one of the afternoons most of the kids wandered out to explore the shoreline.

With our camera, I tried to catch a bit of personality. Last time I shared a glimpse of Lissie's thoughtful spirit. Here I'd like to share Mark's adventurous personality. He's a curious soul who enjoys investigating his surroundings. I think that's all I need to say; these photos speak for themselves. As the saying goes, our second son is all boy.

When we first met five-year-old Mark at his orphange in Russia, his risk taking scared us. He was unusually small for his age but would climb to the the height of the rusted frames that served as the children's playground equipment. He would then catch our eye, grin and dismount by doing some daring feat like a front flip. These nervous prospective parents were just certain he would break a bone before we could get him home!

Mark and Cassandra on their orphanage grounds, September 2001

As a naturally timid person, I've come to appreciate Mark's willingness to learn by trying. He has matured in his risk taking; now I rarely worry that he's putting himself in danger. I suspect that as Mark grows into manhood we'll get to watch the Lord make use of the trait He Himself built into this former orphan. He has a plan for our son -- Mark is a marvel, fearfully and wonderfully made by our great God (Psalm 139)!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Visit the Zoo with Us!

Mrs. Beaver:

This week Joe and Lissie finished their second-to-last college semesters. To celebrate that accomplishment and take advantage of their two weeks of unencumbered freedom, we traveled to Omaha to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo.

Our first stop was the "Lied Jungle."

There we saw everything from water fowl to...

...several species of monkeys. I thought this pair bore a resemblance to Joe and Lissie...

...but our twins just couldn't see the resemblance!

Alexander's favorite animal in this exhibit was the colorful parrot. He clearly remembers the bird's Russian name, so I suspect our 12-year-old's interest in the colorful winged-creature began before he came to America.

I have to admit, I love the photo below. The second bird peaking out from behind the tree just begs for a caption. When Joe has recovered more fully from the drain of the last college semester, I may have to see if he can come up with something clever. Joe tends to think in "captions"!

By the time we left the jungle, we'd made all kinds of discoveries...

...this upside down character had to be the least expected and funniest! He was dangling from a light fixture we crossed under as we exited the building. Again, I think this photo just begs for a caption. It's looking like I can keep Joe intellectually stimulated during his two-week break!

Our next stop was the large cat house. There we were surprised to see a tiger stand up to it's full height on it's hind legs and stride back and forth in front of a set of windows. We soon realized that the tiger was intent on, and perhaps even coveting, a large ball being toyed with by another tiger in an enclosure across the exhibit hall.

We learned from a volunteer docent standing nearby that the "dancing" tiger was just one and a half years old.

She eventually gave up on her lust for the ball...

and settled into a contented cuddle with her mama (right).

Tigers weren't the only cats we were able to see today.

What fascinated us the most was a mammoth male lion.

His roar rattled the building, and it's rumble reached far outside his compound.

His enormous paws left no doubt as to his strength!

Getting this close up view of a lion just before Christmas, left us contemplating the stunning miracle of the babe in the manger. That frail infant was fully human and yet fully God. That babe, born in a manger smelling as badly as some of the exhibits we visited today, would transform the world!

The Bible calls Him the Lion of Judah. While a real lion's strength is awe-inspiring, it is also limited. There is no limit to the strength of the great Lion of Judah. He was strong enough to endure our sin on the cross. He is strong enough to rescue and save all who call upon Him

After we left the large cats exhibits, I caught Lissie enjoying the warm sunshine while she texted photos to Anna.

We moved from the cats to the bears.

We then entered a building dedicated to the animals of the island of Madagascar, off the southern tip of Africa.

A large enclosure featured Ring-Tailed Lemurs.

Within their habitat were two or three tubes with bright light pouring out their ends. Each of these "lamps" had a possessive lemur stationed in front of it, basking in the light or the warmth or perhaps both.

Whatever the reason for the lemur's attraction to the tubes, the combination of animal and strong light made for a good "photo op"!

Another of the Madagascar exhibits housed an animal that wasn't...well...quite so cute!

As we excited the building, Lissie and I both found ourselves attracted to this zoo train. She just finished a photography class, and I had the opportunity to learn some of the material alongside her. This train provided a great example of repeated shapes and bright colors that are often sought out by photographers.

As we made our way along the back side of the zoo on our way to the giraffe habitat, we stumbled upon a sculpture garden we'd never seen before in our many visits to this zoo.

The garden's sculptures and ponds provided both beauty...

...and fun!

We left Tatiana's sculptured giraffe for the real thing, housed indoors:

While I was trying to get the perfect photo of one of my favorite animals...

The kids all collapsed. They were zooed (just invented that word!) out. The one exception was Amy, who continued to be full of energy--hence her blurriness.

As we trudged up the steep hill to the zoo's exit, we caught sight of one last unusual bit of wildlife--a black squirrel.

See the squirrel's open mouth in this second photograph below? What is this squirrel trying to communicate???

Again, I think the picture just begs for one of Joe's captions! Hopefully, he will have soon caught up on his sleep and be ready to think in "captions"!

We were so blessed today. The weather was unseasonable warm. The zoo animals were active.

Most importantly, we were reminded how incredibly blessed we are to have been glued together as a family by the Lord. He is so very good, and we relished His abundant lovingkindness today!