Saturday, December 29, 2012

If It Weren't for Adoption...

Mrs. Beaver:

Oksana (8) with her niece, Brielle (6 months)

If the little girl in braids hadn't been adopted, she'd never have had any brothers or sisters. She also would have missed out on the delight of being an auntie. Thank You, Lord, for placing the lonely in families. Thank You for placing Oksana in our family! (Psalm 68:6)

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

Mrs. Beaver:

We woke to the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a much-talked about piece of legislation that prohibits Americans from adopting Russian children. After jumping through countless hoops and visiting our kiddos in September, we were oh-so very close to a court date. Yet our avenue for adding the "Fab Four" to our family is now roadblocked. As the realization sunk in this morning, our hearts hurt.

As we grieved our way through the first half of the day, we kept our eye on the clock. We needed to be at the airport at 2 p.m. As we announced in the post called "A Surprise", our daughter Lissie is being courted by Eric Moores. Eric and his sister, Kali, a dear friend of Lissie's were on their way for a visit.

We arrived at the airport a tad early and their flight was a full hour late.

As I paced the itsy-bitsy airport, a set of Bible verses kept occurring to me. What wound its way through my head and made its way into my heart was the famous passage from Ecclesiastes 3: "There is a time for everything...a time to weep and a time to laugh." (verses 1,4)

Usually when I read that passage I think of the opposites mentioned in the long list as happening at different times, perhaps one following the other. But right now, God has laid on our plate both a reason for sorrow and a reason for joy. Perhaps another metaphor works even better. The grief and the happiness are like two sides of a coin. I choose to see this dichotomy as a great kindness from a good God.

While we pray-pray-pray-pray that God will provide a way around or over or under the roadblock to adopting our kiddos, we can be focusing on life and laughter and love and living in a way that glorifies God despite our circumstances. Grief and gladness can co-exist.

So as God lifted my spirits, I was able to enjoy how beautiful my daughter looked as she waited for her guy. This was to be the first time they'd seen each other since they started courting seven weeks ago. When the courtship began, Lissie was living in Central Asia.

The two have been counting the days for this "together time" for weeks, but Lissie told me despite her excitement she was also a bit nervous.
Finally, the plane landed and the whole family lined up to support Lissie and cheer on the duo. We've all known Eric for nearly three years and he is a favorite with the whole tribe.
At last, Lissie caught sight of a tall, dark...well, you get the picture.
Eric was hurrying toward Lissie at a record-setting pace!
Eric and Lissie's hug took place too fast for me to catch with my camera. That brevity was purposeful on their part and it had been decided upon through ongoing discussions long before they reached each other's arms. Still in the initial stage of their courtship, they've chosen to wait on physical shows of affection until they have a better sense of whether God's will is for them to spend their lives together with nothing parting them but death.
So for now, Eric's embrace is for his sister. We're so glad both of them will be spending two weeks with us. They feel just like family and having them around increases the amount of laughter that rings through our home. Right now we could use some extra laughter, while we pray-pray-pray-pray that eventually our sorrow will be turned to joy and our mourning to dancing as we celebrate the addition of four kiddos to our number.
God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Lissie's Take on Having Russian Siblings

Mrs. Beaver:

Here's another link. This time written by our daughter, Lissie.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Orphan Care: A Heart Check

Mrs. Beaver:

Amy (newly 3) in the arms of her orphanage director as we prepared to leave to unite her with her sisters,
Tatanya and Natasha,at their orphanage and then head take the three of them to their new family and home

It would be easy to think that the political move in Russia that threatens to eliminate the ability of Americans to give loving homes to kids who desperately need them is just an issue that affects those of us who have been led to adopt from that country.

But perhaps there's more to recent events than we might think.

Here's a link with some penetrating thoughts:

From My Heart

The post is long, but please at least scan it. Stare at her photos. And contemplate God's commands:

"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from my sight.
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow." Isaiah 1:16,17

Now consider:

Is my desire for convenience and ease stronger than I realized? Has the craving for my life to be comfortable kept me from opening my home to a child?

Has fear held me back from being willing to parent a child who will come with emotional scars? Do I lack trust in God that He will get us through the toughest of times?

Do I doubt that God would provide the financial means if I said yes to adoption?

Am I afraid that the neat and tidy family we have might be changed in a way I won't like?

Have I held back because my current ministry might be hampered? What if God has something even bigger and more impactful in mind?

And one last question:

Empty-nesters and nearly empty-nesters: while you're yet young enough, what eternal difference could you make in the life of a child using those parenting skills you've honed for so long?

Now consider God's words at the opposite end of the book of Isaiah:

"Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house?" Isaiah 58:6,7 ESV

God expects His people's lives to look markedly different than their culture. He calls us to live sacrificially, loving the least of these as our service of worship to Him who loved us when we were yet His enemies.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Adoption Update: Children Taking a Backseat to Politics

Mrs. Beaver:

Below are a series of photos which the Lord allowed me to take during a Christmas open house that Anna and Aaron hosted during my recent visit.

As darkness descended that evening, the Christmas tree grew magical in its glow. I took advantage of the lighting to capture some pictures of our granddaughter, Brielle, in the embrace of her Aunt Arianna with her husband, Eric, beside them (Aaron's sister and brother-in-law). The pair are renowned for doting on their little niece.

You may very well be wondering what these pictures have to do with the title of this post. What do photos of Brielle in her aunt and uncle's arms have to do with orphans and politics?
The connection is this: the longer Mr. Beaver and I parent the more clearly we "get" that every child was built by God to need affection and encouragement. Our granddaughter is blessed to be receiving this kind of lavish love, not only from her parents but also from extended family.
In contrast, we're parenting nine children who grew up without even receiving minimal attention for much of their lives. They were neglected and often abandoned for long periods of time. Initially, they lived in broken homes... homes so broken that they were eventually pulled out and placed in orphanages. While there, they received good physical care, but their dedicated caretakers simply could not give so many children under their care the nurture that the children's God-given nature requires. They needed to be in loving families!
And now a large number of institutionalized children in Russia who could get that care through adoption are at risk of being denied. Within the past couple of weeks a battle has been brewing between America and Russia over a number of issues. In response to a bill passed in the US Congress, both houses of the Russian parliament (the Duma) quickly and overwhelmingly passed a bill that includes a ban on American adoption of Russian children. That bill now simply awaits President Putin's signature to become law.
In the end, this measure would prevent the adoption of children who will almost certainly remain in institutions until they age out and face the harsh reality of life with out the support of family. Statistics document that nearly all of these children will be at grave risk for crime and suicide.
Things look bleak.
But we're not giving up, and we're not giving in. Our desire to become the parents of the "Fab Four" has not diminished in the least. We love them. Therefore, we're continuing to fulfill document requests that came in before all this developed. Why are we bothering when things look hopeless? We're not facing this battle to adopt alone. God is with us. God is for them. And we're beseeching Him to intervene. He has declared Himself to be the Father of the Fatherless. He is Almighty. And He says over and over in His word that He will not tolerate the oppression of orphans. Our faith is in Him. We believe He will bring a solution to a situation that looks impossible.
Please pray. As important as our four are, they're only four out of untold thousands. This is about countless children who are more vulnerable than most of us can even imagine. Please pray!
There are Americans ready and willing to lavish affection on orphaned Russian children--to treasure and cherish them, just like Brielle's Uncle Eric is doing for her here. Please pray they get the chance!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Surprise

Mrs. Beaver:

About two months ago, Lissie got the shock of her life. Her dad Skyped and told her a young man had contacted him seeking permission to court her. Lissie was floored! Although her life dream is to marry and become a mom, she sincerely didn't believe that deep desire could possibly come true until she was in her late twenties.

The young man who had contacted Mr. Beaver has been a family friend for about 2-1/2 years since he first came to a multi-day CollegePlus! gathering at our home. About three dozen college students--and some of their siblings--attended the event from around the country. When Mr. Beaver asked Lissie if she would be interested in being courted by Eric Moores, her response was an immediate and ecstatic, "Yes!" She'd come to deeply respect His love of God and she's also learned to appreciate his sense of humor. Lissie had been able to take note of these traits and others during several other CollegePlus! gatherings that both attended over the past couple of years.

The two are now going through the process of seeking God's will for their future while getting to know one another well enough to discern whether they should pursue marriage.

For the past few weeks all their contact has had to be via Skype or email, but later this week Eric and his sister Kali, one of Lissie's dear friends, will visit us from their home outside Boston for two full weeks so that the young couple has the chance to really get to know one another in person before she returns to Central Asia in mid January for another five months stint.

Today our twins went to see "The Hobbit" together. While they were gone, a special delivery arrived for Lissie. She walked into the house oblivious to the surprise that awaited her...

...but, as you can see below, she grew immediately suspicious that something was up when she noticed the whole family was watching her entry into the kitchen. And then...
...she noticed the flowers. Her face turned as pink as her coat!
She made a wide arc around the beautiful bouquet...
...unsure of how to proceed. After all, these were the first flowers she'd ever received from a young man!
Her siblings didn't lack for ideas on what Lissie should do. They happily chanted, "Read the note! Read the note!" So tentatively she moved in just close enough to grab the card. She then backed away as though she feared the beauty before her might just be too good to be true.

Lissie read Eric's words and then stared contemplatively for a moment at the bouquet with a blissful grin spread across her face.

Clutching Eric's message, Lissie ran to her Daddy and sunk into his embrace. She then looked up into his eyes and asked plaintively, "Is this okay with you?"

When Eric and Lissie began their courtship, they went out of their way to request that their parents guide and counsel them as they face the biggest decision of their lives. Lissie was looking to father for leadership in this new situation.

Lissie's dad rapidly reassured her that Eric had asked before he sent the flowers.

Then a tearful daughter and a giddy daddy laughed delightedly together out of sheer joy! Lissie has no greater champion than her own dad (although that might just be changing!).

Finally, after initial disbelief and then some caution, Lissie was ready to relish the romance of Eric's generosity and thoughtfulness.

As she picked up the vase to admire the flowers up-close, she whispered, "How did he know...? How did he know that pink roses are my favorite flower?"

Lissie will still have to solve that mystery. However, as she said made the comment, I remembered some words Eric emailed Mr. Beaver as the courtship began, "I want to study Lissie." Apparently he's been an attentive student thus far!

To God be all the glory!

One Little Girl Missing

Mrs. Beaver:

Oksana (left - 8) and Amy (right - 10)
This duo was destined to be a trio. God has ordained the most amazing set of circumstances to join the three as sisters. But we're one little girl short... She's still living in an orphanage in Russia with her three older brothers. So we pray...and pray...and...

I long to wrap my arms around her as she sits in my lap, and rock her gently back and forth as if she'd been mine forever.

I long to brush and stroke her silky, chestnut tresses.

I long to dress her like a princess and release her from the stigma she's faced every day as an orphan.

I long, with all my heart, to teach her about Jesus, and His Father--the God who has adopted me (Gal. 4:5).

I long for my baby to be home...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lissie's Home! 67 Hours of Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Mr. and Mrs. Beaver:

We're all very tired... so please forgive if this is confusing. We'll look again tomorrow to see what we missed or mis-stated. Suffice it to say that God led Lissie and the rest of our family on a grand adventure on the way to being reunited in rural Iowa after Lissie had spent the last 4 months in Central Asia.

Plan "A" was for Lissie to come home to Sioux City via Moscow, with an overnight stay there to break up her trip. We learned that it is nearly impossible to get the visa needed for that overnight stay in Moscow. And to make matters more complex, the airline she was scheduled to fly no longer flies into Sioux City. Enter plan "B"!

Plan "B" was for Lissie to switch airlines and routes, returning through Istanbul and Chicago to Omaha where we would pick her up after about 30 hours of travel. Unfortunately, her originating flight from Central Asia was delayed by 6 hours, which caused her to miss her connection to the US... and those flights happen only once each day. Net, she spent an unplanned overnight in Istanbul.

Then she flew to Chicago... the day after a blizzard. When she arrived in Chicago, she learned that she didn't have seats on the connecting flight... and due to the flight delays, cancellations and general post-blizzard chaos, she learned she couldn't get a seat to get home until December 30th!

She and the people she was traveling with (more about these heroes in another post) checked to see if they could rent a car to get the rest of the way home, and were told all cars were rented in all of Chicago!

She learned all this and called to let us know while we were driving to Omaha expecting to pick her up at 10:30pm. After a brief time of prayer, Mrs. Beaver and I decided our course was clear. We were already about 1 hour south of Sioux City, nearly to the junction where I-29 meets up with I-80. We turned east toward Chicago and told Lissie we hoped to see her in the morning. Understand that this was a completely unplanned trip... no clean clothes, no toothbrushes... nothing but 'Welcome Home!' signs we had planned to have at the airport greeting.

Off we went toward Chicago, expecting to make the 10 hour drive overnight!

Fortunately, the weather was clear. Unfortunately, the night before had been anything but clear. It had been a blizzard, and the roads were still feeling the affects. The road grew icier and icier the further east we traveled. As we drove on, we passed about 30 cars and 20 trucks left abandoned in the snowy ditches from the night before. With increasing regularity, we were also getting icy surprises of our own, finding ice patches 1-2 inches thick in many places, some of which threw our 15 passenger van around like a toy. About 40 miles east of Des Moines we decided it was foolish to continue on in the dark. We exited the interstate and found God's provision in securing the last few available hotel rooms in the town of Stuart Iowa for our overnight stay.

In the morning, we received the good news from Alison that they had found a rental car and were starting their trek our direction. We also got on the road, heading east, hoping to meet Lissie as soon as possible by meeting between Des Moines and Chicago.

This is what we saw when we could see the roads in daylight... we counted about 100 cars and 40 trucks in the ditches!

As we headed east, we kept in touch with Lissie, trying to find the ideal meeting spot. It turns out that spot was a Kum & Go c-store at exit 155 in rural Iowa. Here we awaited Lissie and her traveling companions. We really didn't care where... we just wanted the reunion to happen. Can you tell we were ready for it?!?

Lissie and her twin were quick to reunite and give thanks for the reunion!

And here are the heroes who escorted Lissie all the way through 67 hours of travel and adventure, delivering her through storms and delays to our arms in rural Iowa.

We took just a moment for a big family picture with this precious couple. Then we let them go to be reunited with their own family in eastern Nebraska.

More about the story later, but for now, this is a quick snapshot of Lissie's great adventure! So grateful to God to have her home!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Happy Marmee (my version of "Grandma") !

Mrs. Beaver:

I was so blessed to spend a few days in Ohio with Aaron and Anna this past week. Here's a few of photos of 6-month-old Brielle. What a gift from God she is!
A dear family friend made the beautiful quilt in which Brielle's wrapped

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Adoption Update: We Could Use Prayer

Mrs. Beaver:

About ten days ago I was pleading with the Lord on this blog for a court date before Lissie arrives home for Christmas break. It has become clear that isn't His will. The Russian judge issued a request Thursday for quite a string of additional documents. Getting them to Russia and then processed there will definitely take us into the next calendar year.We're busy reminding ourselves of biblical truths about God's wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty.

In fact, today I listened to a great sermon on contentment that helped my wrestling heart. Here's the link: God is More than Enough.

That said, to even keep the adoption moving, we could use some urgent prayer. One of the judge's requirements is for a "police clearance" for Lissie from the city in which she's living in Central Asia. (The point of the document is to prove that the person has no police record in that location.) Our hope is that Lissie will be able to bring this document home with her when she travels back to the States late this week. It's already Monday morning on that side of the world so the time table is TIGHT. In addition, the culture is so very different there that we don't really know what we face to even accomplish this. What we do know is that nothing is impossible for God! Pray for wisdom. Pray for cooperation from law enforment officials. Please join us in prayer that the Lord would grant us an early Christmas gift in the form of a document critical to getting the Fab Four home as early in '13 as possible. Thank you, friends!

(Lissie is pictured with her oldest student, Anna)

Could It be Any Clearer?

Mrs. Beaver:

I don't normally post first thing on the Sabbath. However, as I've come around again to the book of John in my reading of God's Word, something struck me powerfully. It's just a phrase. But what if the words became the story of my life?

Jesus and His diciples have gone to a wedding. You know the story. The wine has run out and Mary, in a very motherly way, insists that her son do something to help. The two of them go back and forth for a short time.

Then in John 2:5 Jesus' mother says to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

That's it. Seven words. Just seven words. But what if I lived these seven words? Of course, there's the big go adopt those four siblings in Russia. In other words, be My hands and feet to the vulnerable. (James 1:27, etc., etc., etc...)

But there's also what I'm going to call the whispers of His word. He commands us to deny kind...look out for the interests of our the Good Samaritan, not the religious person who crosses to the other side of the road. I could go on and on, couldn't I?

"Whatever He says to you, do it." Oh my, I'm overwhelmed by the implication of these seven words. We're told more than once that Mary pondered what she saw of her dear son's unusual life. Now I need to ponder. Oh, may her words sink deep this Sabbath. Then, Lord, through the power of your grace, may I live Mary's admonition.

You may wonder why I've placed a photo of my granddaughter at the top of this post. What do Brielle and Mary's words have to do with each other? My circle of influence is primarily my husband, my children and over time will also be my grandchildren. I need to take Mary's word's seriously as I interact with them so that they SEE Christ in me. They in turn will interact with so many others. Kind of like a stone being thrown in a pond.

Who are the primary people in your circle of influence? Mary says to you regarding them--and anyone else with whom you come in contact, "Whatever my son tells you, do it."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Gift x Two

Mrs. Beaver:

I just received two of the sweetest gifts from my Lord and Savior following a day of seeking Him through prayer and Bible reading.

I was doing laundry, and I pulled doll clothes out of the dryer. On other days this same act would have probably escaped my notice as I rolled darting thoughts through my head such as, "Yikes! I wonder what we're having for dinner tonight. It's nearly 5 p.m. and I haven't gotten any meat our of the freezer."

But today the doll outfit that I pulled from the dryer was medicine to my soul straight from the Giver of All Good Gifts. You see I've fought fear all day. I've been in a fog of faithlessness.

This week I had a respite from being mom to the ten who still live at home. I had the opportunity to accompany Mr. Beaver on a business trip to LA.  With the exception of our career man, John, the rest of our kiddos were very happily cared for in Ohio by their oldest sister Anna and her husband, Aaron. Anna and Aaron also had the help of Aaron's loving parents, Ric and Tina, and Aaron's sister, Amber who is one of those rare "kid magnets."

However, tomorrow the nine children return. Thus, my fear. I have given in to a common doubt I face--my ability to meet the needs of so many. I've also battled with knowledge of my own sinfulness. When it's just me and Mr. Beaver, I'm able to be fairly Christlike. But when you throw in ten kiddos who all have needs--often arising nearly simultaneously--then I'm all too likely to get impatient--at best--and angry (in all its ugly shadings) at worse.

Pulling that piece of doll clothing from the dryer gave me a sudden shot of reality. I am SO blessed. When Psalm 127 says that children are a blessing from the Lord, no truer truth exists in Scripture (I feel safe making this bold statement since every revelation in the Word is pure, perfect Truth.) As I stood in the laundry room, I pulled the little black velvet jumper to my chest and reveled in the fact that I still have little girls playing with dolls. I am SO blessed. We're even about to add one more doll-playing beauty to our number! I am SO blessed!

My soul was swept free of the ravages of fears that had made their home in my heart since I awoke this morning. The doll clothing wasn't the only reason for the disappearance of the fear, however.

As I was doing laundry, I was listening to music on my iPad. Just as I was being reminded of the blessing of my children by an itty-bitty piece of clothing, a song began to play that I listened to dozens and dozens of times during the advent season of Christmas 1997. We had just moved to England, and only our air shipment had arrived. It would still be weeks before the majority of our belongings, traveling by ship, would be delivered. When packing our temporary shipment, we hadn't thought to throw in any Christmas music. So, as a spur-of-the-moment purchase in a bookseller on High Street (their version of our "main street") I bought Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas. I could tell from the cover that the songs were innocuous enough and knew they would provide a bit of Christmas cheer for newly relocated Anna (7), as well as our twins, John and Lissie (5-1/2). What I didn't expect from the secular album was a God-glorifying song called "Jesus Born On this Day."

Hearing those words again while in my fog of fear today, I was reminded that I will not be alone in my role as mom after my children return. The child who was born 2,000 years ago is King of all nations, and, yet, He will be with me. He will help me manage and even meet the need for attention that each of our children represents. And He can keep me from sin as I abide in Him, my Vine. Here are some of the words from Carey's song:

"He is our light and salvation.

He is the King of all nations.

Behold, the Lamb of God has come.

Behold, the Savior has come.

He is our Lord and Savior.

The light of His birth fills us with hope.

He is life...He is love...He is grace...born on Christmas day."

(I share the song that has meant to much to me here, but please be extra careful of where YouTube may take you afterwards since she's a secular artist.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

She's Six Months!

Mrs. Beaver:

Thank you, Lord, for Brielle!