Thursday, May 23, 2013

Suffering: Bearing Up Under the Prick of Thorns

Mrs. Beaver:

I'm going to interrupt my posts about our travel for something far weightier. I read the following quote by Thomas Case this morning in Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings:
"God teaches His people in afflictions. He teaches us to feel compassion toward others who are suffering. We are prone to be insensitive toward others who are suffering when we are at ease. He also teaches us to prize our outward mercies and comforts more, and yet dote on them less. We are to be more thankful for them but less ensnared by them. Next God teaches us self-denial and obedient submission to His will. In our prosperity we are full of our own wills, and usually give God counsel as if we could tell God how it might be better. We dispute our cross, when we should take it up. By bearing a little we learn to bear more. The bullock unaccustomed to the yoke is impatient. After he is accustomed to labour, he willingly puts his neck under the yoke. God works out by degrees the delicate spirit we learned in our prosperity. One way or another, God works His children into a sweet, obedient frame. At length, God brings His children to subscribe: 'What God wills, when God wills, how God wills; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' Finally, we can learn humility and meekness of spirit. Pride naturally runs in our veins, and it is nourished by ease and prosperity. By trouble we come to know our own heart. God seeks to develop meekness in His people by affliction, then save them from affliction." (pg.145)
This past year has held some hard things for our family: the decline of my health followed by major surgery, Russia's decision to close adoption to Americans just as we were on the verge of adding four older siblings to our number, and the sudden and traumatic death of our beloved Aunt Jean which necessitated re-situating Mr. Beaver's 82-year-old mother due to her Alzheimer's. And then about two weeks ago, Mr. Beaver underwent surgery for a large growth in his palate. We thank God daily that the tumor was benign! Still, he is looking at a prolonged and painful healing process after having about 1/4 of the roof of his mouth removed.

The quote was a sweet reminder that while it is so easy to focus on the thorns, God also gives the rose. Suffering has value! For now we'll take comfort in that as we continue to put one foot in front of the next following our Savior through the trials.

A Dream Trip

Mrs. Beaver:

I'd mentioned in a recent post that the our nine youngest children and I were utterly blessed to be able to tag along with their dad and brother, John, on a business trip to Santa Monica, California.

Winter in the upper Midwest had been very odd--almost no snow during months it was expected. Then when April arrived, snow blew into the area repeatedly. Even though our trip was scheduled for the period when fruit trees are normally flowering in our area, we left Iowa with white stuff coating the fir trees...

...and found ourselves in a different world. One of our reasons for investing in the travel was to allow our children to experience a world vastly different to rural Iowa.

Photo credit -- Natasha
Photo credit -- Natasha
Photo credit -- Natasha

Coastline lifeguard SUVs wearing surfboards next to the Santa Monica Pier...we had definitely achieved the goal of expanding our children's world! We'd flown into a West Coast wonderland!

Our second reason for saying, "Yes" to the trip was stepping back from the every day demands of life to allow for dedicated moments of family fellowship.

When the opportunity presented itself, Mr. Beaver and I debated the cost. But who can put a price tag on giving orphans their first chance to see the ocean?

When we reached the ocean side on our first day in California, Daria asked me to take a photo of her running her toes through beach sand for the first time in her life.

She was one gleeful former orphan!

The hassle of applying sunscreen didn't even phase her...

...or any of her siblings.

With sun protection in place, the water was the goal.

Eight-year-old Oksana paused to take in the awe of the rhythm of the waves before entering. Just like her older sister, Daria, her grin stretched from ear to ear.

I have so much more to share, but this post is long enough. More to come...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Russian Adoption: April Girls

Mrs. Beaver:

I love adoption. I love Russia. I love Russia due to all the time I've spent in the country as a result of international adoption. You see, nine Russian children--all of whom had been orphaned by the alcoholism of their mothers--call me "Mama". Russia is dear to my heart.

I love our two youngest daughters, both born in Russia. Both have April birthdays. Both are like spring flowers blossoming before our eyes. Oksana (on the left) just turned nine, and Amy turned eleven last month.

Sadly, our family is missing an "April Girl," as I like to call them. Last year we worked hard toward adopting yet another little Russian beauty, also born in April. This precious princess was one of our Oksana's friends in her orphanage. They were playmates; Oksana and this other little "April Girl" slept in the same room. As the end of last year rolled around, we thought we were so close to adopting this little girl who would be our youngest daughter. All our paperwork was completed. We were simply waiting on THE call that a court date had been set.

Then, in late December, the Russian government shut the door to Americans willing to open their homes and families to children in Russian orphanages. We were crushed.

We still long to add this little "April Girl", and her three older brothers, to our family. The wait hasn't dimmed our desire. In fact, the government-imposed wall has only heightened our longing for these four children.

Please, please, President Putin, reopen the door to adoption. Please, Duma members, let us come get our "April Girl" and her brothers. Please consider the hearts of these children who had met their new parents and had been told that they were wanted after 2-1/2 years in an orphanage. "When will you return to take us home?" were among their last words as we waved good-bye last September. Please, President Putin and Duma members, don't let these precious children languish!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Reflection: A Better Plan

Mrs. Beaver:

We were never able to have children like most people do, and yet I'm the mother of twelve. God's plan was better than ours!

Twelve years ago this month, I was wrestling with whether we should double the number of our children. Mr. Beaver had already come to peace with the idea, but I was scared stiff at the thought. We'd felt led by the Lord to adopt one older Russian orphan. Then the Lord led us to the idea of adopting siblings. When we received our referral, we were shocked that our agency wanted us to adopt a trio of siblings. Like Jacob in the Old Testament God won the wrestling match--I ended up with a hip out of joint--so to speak--and we went from three children to six as the result of one court hearing in Russia in September 2001. A dozen years later, I can smile this Mother's Day and say God's plan was better.

This first of the three trios we've adopted from Russia has reached adulthood. Jaynie turned twenty this month. Cassandra will be 19 in July and Mark's 18th birthday will fall near the close of 2013. We've come to the end of parenting them as children. There's been "hard", as the expression goes, to get to this point. But Mr. Beaver and I would tell you that most of that hard has been the result of sinfulness in the two of us. God has refined us through the parenting of Jaynie, Cassandra and Mark in ways that would have never have proven necessary if we hadn't adopted older children. Through the process, He has made us a bit more like Christ. God's plan was better.

Our role now will be to shepherd them as they make their mark on the world as adults. Watching God open doors for them is soul satisfying to Mr. Beaver and me. After all, these were cast-away kids. Living in an orphanage doesn't allow you much opportunity to develop the gifts God has placed in you. But when you're in a family your special talents stand a better chance of being recognized and utilized. God's plan is better.

While Mark is still a bit too young to have his direction settled, Jaynie and Cassandra's dreams are opening up to them. Jaynie learned this week that she has been accepted for a graphic design internship at Wells Enterprises, makers of Blue Bunny Ice Cream. For years Jaynie, who loves to draw, has had a desire to illustrate children's books, and we believe this is the first of a number of steps in that direction. God's plan is best.

Cassandra's world is also opening up before her. Months ago she pulled the two of us aside and told us she had a dream of serving orphans in Africa ~ and perhaps widows at the same time. This past week Cassandra and I attended #Summit9 hosted by the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) in Nashville. There, a "God story" began to unfold as Cassandra found a ministry that works in Zambia with orphans and widows. She was told they have just the place for the talents, skills and giftings the Lord has placed in her. We still have many details to work through before she goes, but Cassandra is so excited that she cries tears of joy when she tells the story of the Lord matching her with this ministry. God's plan is best.

If I'd had my way with motherhood, I would have given birth to four children. God has only allowed me one pregnancy, but that resulted in our beautiful twins, John and Lissie. To our great surprise, He's also given us ten other treasures through adoption. His plan has been so very different than mine. His plan has been far better than mine. His plan ~ as always ~ is best.