Friday, March 30, 2012

Daria's 17th

Mr. And Mrs. Beaver:
When Daria turned 15, we spent the day feeling sad. After all, she was in Russia, and we were in America. Our hearts ached as we thought, "Argh...we've already missed 14 of her birthdays! Not another missed milestone!"

We were also concerned. If she turned 16 before being adopted, Daria would "age-out" of the Russian orphanage system and no longer be adoptable. Now she was turning 15, and we were only a little way into the adoption process. Previous experience told us that just about anything could happen capable of slowing down or halting the process. Our adoption of sisters Tatiana, Natasha and Amy in 2005 had taken 14 months because the Russian government had stopped all foreign adoptions for several months while the process was reviewed by the Ministry of Education. We just didn't have 14 months this time. Not if we hoped to get this amber-eyed teenager out of the system before it was too late. We keenly felt our dependence on God to make the seemingly impossible possible.

The arrival of Daria's 15th birthday in March of 2010 made us just that much more aware of the urgency of getting this precious teen we desperately wanted as our daughter out of her orphanage and into our home. In the end, the Lord answered countless prayers and Daria became ours just four months before the ominous deadline associated with her 16th birthday.

Unlike two years ago, this March Daria's birthday brought us nothing but happiness. God's grace has been more than sufficient, allowing Daria to adjust beautifully to her adoption. She's wonderfully affectionate, kind, funny, loyal and loves Jesus. Daria is now so close to adulthood. and we will eagerly watch as the Lord takes this once hopeless life and transforms it for His glory and her good.

This year, we asked Daria what she wanted to eat for her birthday. Without a moment's hesitation she chose ice cream... off to the Blue Bunny parlor we went!

The following picture is particularly reflective of the kind of hope and healing that God has worked in Daria's heart. Two years ago, she was an only child emerging from an orphanage... someone who had spent her entire life learning how to fend for herself. When Mrs. Beaver was taking photos as we enjoyed our ice cream, Daria herself initiated the hug below with Alexander. She now has real brothers and sisters that she loves and who love her as well. God is so good!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Whole Year! Praise the Father of the Fatherless

Mrs. Beaver & Lissie:

Yesterday we celebrated the one year anniversary of "Peaches" becoming part of the Nordstrom family. It's amazing how far God has brought that little girl in one year!

When we arrived at their house, Peaches was navigating the driveway and yard on a bike.

Her proud parents told us that just this week she taught herself how to ride a bike without training wheels.

She also lost her first two teeth within the past week; a fact she was quick to point out when she greeted us.

Peaches was a little confused by the balloons, cake, and present; she kept telling us, "Is this for me? Is this for me? It's not my birthday. I'm still five." She was a little worried about us!

It's been precious to see Peaches' and Oksana's growing friendship. Both have come from radically different cultures and have dealt with learning a new language along with adjusting to living with their forever families. Nevertheless, their friendship has blossomed, and now their eyes light up when they talk about each other.

Our hope last night was to honor God and acknowledge all the Nordstroms. We know first hand that a successful adoption takes the love and self-sacrifice of the whole family.

Here's Lissie with the oldest of Peaches' siblings, Katie.

Katie has four brothers, but with this adoption the Lord has given her Peaches to fulfil her longing for a sister.

Peaches is dear to all in our family!

We know that it is God who places children in families through adoption (Ps 68), and we're so grateful to Him that He placed precious Peaches in the family of our dear friends, the Nordstroms.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Evening at the Park

Mrs. Beaver:

With an unusually warm spring, we couldn't resist  a picnic on Saturday evening. Mr. Beaver was excited when we pulled into the parking lot and an ice cream man was seeing many of the Blue Bunny products of Mr. Beaver's company, Wells' Enterprises.

Mr. Beaver shouted, "Ice cream for dinner!" as he ran toward the truck. We simply cheered! We all enjoy being part of a family that enjoys doing things spontaniously.

Oksansa  helped delived the goodies.

The redwing black birds' migration appears to be complete. Here they make a pretty adornment to our Marshes and ponds. This bird kept a close eye on our picnic--perhaps a Blue Bunny fan?

After dinner the youngest girls found delight on the nearby playground equipment...

...while the older kids played football with dad. John and lissie were at a wedding in Michigan with some of their dear CollegePlus! friends

After relaxed play in the 80 degree weather, we decided to take our two mutts to the off-leash dog fenched dog acreage.

As we were leaving the picnic area, two little boys sitting on the curb looked up at me with wide eyes and said, "Are you taking pictures?" When I replied that I was, they flashed their most winning smiles for me. How could I resist their charm?

Once in the dog park, Sunshine ran for her life! She does not understand the concept of frolicing with other canninnes. This particular trip, two black-lab mix puppies were hot on Sunshine's trail. As a pair, they were able to corner our Mutt. What seemed to be perfectly gentle puppy play on their part had Sunshine's hackles standing sky high from nose to the tip of her tail.

Although Sunshine did not enjoy the fellowship available in the off-leash dog run, the rest of us sure enjoyed the long walk within the enclosure on such a God-glorifying evening.

Thanks to God's goodness we had an evening of fun, food, football and family fellowship.

Thank you, Lord, for more family bonding time!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Backup QB

Mr. Beaver:

After tonight's picnic we think we have the Bronco's new backup QB...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Starry, Starry Night

Tonight our family spent some time with the group of friends who went with John (20) to Ethiopia earlier this month. It was glorious to see more of their photos and hear many more details of the incredibly blessed time they had traveling to that country of beautiful people.

When we arrived home, we were surprised at the clarity of the stars, as well as the three planets currently visible (Venus, Neptune and Mars). We've lived here for more than nine years, and we came to the conclusion that the night sky was the clearest we've seen in nearly a decade (another phenomenon of the unusual weather?!?).

What came to mind as we stood for several minutes lost in wonder was a favorite verse:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Inside the Kremlin in Moscow

Mr. & Mrs. Beaver:

It was our last day in Moscow in November 2010. Our family had traveled to Russia to bring home our newest members through adoption--Daria (15-1/2), Alexander (11), and Oksana (6). We went inside the Kremlin to see the beautiful churches hidden to the world by the tall walls. The weather was lousy--a cool damp drizzle--but even so the domes on this church seemed to glow without the help of sunshine. The tiny mosaic tile which wrapped each column was a work of art all in itself.

While we were awed by so many beautiful sights within the Kremlin, as parents we only had eyes for our new teenage daughter. For her these famous tourist draws represented the colorful, unique and beautiful culture she would be leaving as a result of agreeing to be adopted. Daria was suffering with the knowledge that the next day she would be say farewell to all she'd ever known and loved. Our normaly vibrant daughter was as droopy as the weather, and our hearts just ached for her! Truthfully, we couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose language, foods, smells, just to mention a few of the losses she would experience. We longed to listen to her heart on this last day in her motherland but since we didn't share a language yet, all we could do was move through the Kremlin at the pace set by Daria, with tissues handy as tears fell.

Daria dipped low this day and again several times once she was living in America. Each time we gave her space in our attempt to treat her the way we would want to be treated. After she'd had time to grieve the loss of Russia, she'd emerge caustiously ready to embrace being a member of our family in mid America. God's grace saw all of us through these difficult times, which now are nothing but a distant memory. She still loves Russia deeply, but now her ties are to our family here in America. Even more importantly, Daria also now belongs wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ and is investigating ways she can spend her life serving the Father of the Fatherless who has rescued her twice.

Monday, March 19, 2012

This Year: Growth!

Last week our Natasha turned twelve. We put off the celebration for several days so that her brother, John, would be able to join in. He was in Ethiopia on her birthday. Natasha's growing maturity was evident as she uncomplainingly waited for her special dinner, gift opening and birthday cake celebration.

This past year could be summed up in one word: growth. When we adopted Natasha at age five she weighed a mere 23 pounds. She was itsy-bitsy, wearing size 2T clothing. We learned early on in the adoption process that if a birthmother drinks excessively during a pregnancy, the baby will often be undersized and the child may never reach full adult stature.

We knew enough about Natasha's history to know that her first mom imbibed much alcohol while pregnant. So from the day Natasha became ours, we began praying that the Lord would heal her small stature. She has remained undersized the past six years always looking two to three years younger than her age. Our crying out to the Lord on her behalf has gone on and on.

Then this year the long-prayed for growth spurt began. God is so good. She's gone through three shoe sizes. She's skipped an entire clothing size! I buy her clothes, turn around and they're too small for her. She's grown past my shoulder and is now eagerly looking forward to the day we'll all celebrate that she'll inch past her mama. We're so happy that this precious daughter who's been so tiny is experiencing such astounding physical growth.

While Natasha has been so undersized physically, God has proven her to be a giant intellectually. This has been such a surprise because Natasha was diagnosed by a pediatric endocrinologist not long after she came with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome--a deeply dreaded diagnosis for adoptive parents. To God's glory, Natasha has defied everything the secular books say about the mental damage done to alcohol-exposed, severely neglected children. Despite her rough beginning, Natasha loves to explore any subject that catches her interest. She delves into material on the subject so thoroughly that she can then turn around and teach the rest of us. What a blessing to have a "teacher-child" in our midst!

Happy Birthday, Natasha!
We Love You Deeply!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sweet Reunion

Mrs. Beaver:

Yesterday, we returned to the Omaha Airport to welcome back John and the rest of the team from our church who'd traveled to Ethiopia.
We were so determined to avoid being late that we arrived with enough time to play games in the airport's food court.

Soon the Henns joined us. Layne had been on his own with their five youngest children while Tanya traveled with their oldest daughter, Kaylee. "Mr. Mom" was very ready for the return of his wife!

The Henn kids were sure ready to see their mom, too!

As usual, Lissie scooped up the youngest Henn.

The Nordstroms, including 5-year-old "Peaches" who was added to their family of seven through adoption from Ethiopia just about a year ago, weren't far behind. Peaches' daddy, Russ, spent hundreds of hours coordinating the trip for those who traveled from Sioux City.

We waited as people from the same flight deplaned. We knew our loved ones were at the back of the plane, so we had to wait a bit longer to see them... 

When the concourse seemed to be emptying, the entire group sidled forward several yards closer to where our family members would emerge...

...and then in a blur we were rewarded with the return of our loved ones!

Almost immediately there was an exchange of stories--from those who'd remained at home...

...and those who'd had a profound life experience on the other side of the world.

Meanwhile, the hugging and kissing went on and on...

...and on..

Families were reunited...

...and a little girl, adopted from Ethiopia less than a year ago, had a daddy to cling to.

Before we left the airport, I gathered our tribe for a group shot. Oh, how we love togetherness!

I love the way this silhouette of four of our kiddos captures the joy of being back together. Alexander (on far left) wouldn't leave John's side, while Natasha slid her hand into that of her oldest brother. Lissie's happiness that her twin was back shows even without the benefit of light.

Lissie started counting the HOURS until John's return the morning after he left and gave all of us regular updates.

As we drove the two hours back home, Lissie listened eagerly to the details John had the energy to share. When he drifted off, she was very protective of his need for sleep. Since Lissie had traveled to St. Petersburg just last August for a missions trip, she knew the deep but satisified exhaustion he was experiencing after giving of himself to serve others in the name of Christ for more than a week in a foreign land.

When we reached home, we thanked God for John's safety one more time and poured him into his bed; he'd been traveling for about 40 hours.