"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." ~ Matthew 5:8

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

1 Story, 2 Photos, 3 Things I'm Thankful For

~One Story~

         Christmas 2009: Long story short, my parents had been feeling God's prompting to adopt again (I already had six siblings from Russia). This time though, we felt drawn to a different agency than we had previously used: Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project. As I perused the agency's blog, which contained short bios of some of the kids, I suddenly found my brother. That's all there was to it. Mind you, I don't make decisions quickly: I ponder options, weigh pros and cons, and deliberate before finally deciding whether I agree with something. Yet as soon as I saw that dimpled smile, I was utterly convinced that was my brother.

          I began dropping hints galore; casually mentioning the need for another boy in our girl-dominated family; proclaiming that I liked the name "Nikolai"; leaving the blog post about the 10 year old up on the computer screen for the next parent who happened by; and most often of all, putting on the song "All I want for Christmas" by Steven Curtis Chapman. My most energetic efforts, though were turned to prayer. "Oh God, please let us be Nikolai's family," I prayed dozens of times.

        Christmas 2011: the same dimpled grin that captured my heart two years before delighted me this Christmas as Nikolai, now my brother, enjoyed Christmas Day with the enthusiasm that he brings to every single day. His laugh is infectious and frequent; his spirit resilient; his heart affectionate. Though wounded and betrayed by those closest to him in his short lifetime, Nikolai is willing to trust us. I'm so grateful God answered my prayer and gave me the chance to be Nikolai's big sister.

~Two Photos~
The contents of a wonderful surprise package from a dear Alaskan "sister."

Oksana wears sunglasses everywhere these days; Dad calls her "Hollywood." Right now she speaks a language of her own that is pretty much English and Russian every other word.

~3 Things I'm Thankful For~

I have way more than three things to be thankful for, but three goes along with the number theme of this post! So here they are:

  1. A month with our goofy, energetic Jaynie! It's so great to have her home for a time, and I'm relishing a growing closeness thanks to the fact that as of earlier this year, Jaynie and I are now sisters in Christ. It's been wonderful to watch her grow as a new Christian!
  2. A break in school-though I love learning, I've been very much enjoying a chance to relax, spend time with family, catch up on emails and reading, and more time to dive into my favorite Book-the Bible!
  3. More time with Dad! He took a week off for Christmas, and we are all making the most of more time with our goofy, godly, wise, handsome, intelligent Dad. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Wish Come True

It seems only too appropriate to post a brand new video from the Piano Guys (but this video is all cello!) the day that

Jaynie Comes Home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Excited would be quite an inadequate word to describe the emotion and happiness pulsing through the house right now. We can't wait to have our silly Jaynie-girl with us: home for Christmas!

I hope everyone reading this is as blessed as I am this Christmas season (warning: that's almost too much blessing to handle at one time!)


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Excellent Book with an Odd Title

As wonderful as marriage is, it is not the key to lasting joy and happiness: God is!
(Credit goes to Lauren Laplante for the photo) 
        I've often felt shy and awkward discussing the subject of "singleness" and future marriage. There are some pitfalls to avoid in talking about this subject (ha! particularly with unmarried men), but the truth is, the "unmarried" days are a gift from God as well: a gift that can open doors for unique opportunities to serve Him; a gift of time in which to grow as Christians; and even a gift of potential loneliness that can teach us to appreciate our future spouse all the more.

          And so, on that subject, I just finished reading an excellent book with an odd title. It's called, "Why Isn't a Pretty Girl Like You Married (and other helpful comments)" by Nancy Wilson. I'll admit I've felt a little goofy carrying it around (let's just say the title can spark some unique conversations with complete strangers...) but as the old saying goes, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

          This book has proven to hold Biblical thoughts on living contentedly and joyfully in the Christian community while unmarried. Wilson emphasizes the fact that it is not wrong to desire marriage--in fact that desire is a God-given one. However, taking any desire and turning it into an idol, including a wish to be married, will only result in a discontented empty Christian who is ill-equipped to serve or glorify God.

          The book was a quick read, but each chapter was well organized and packed with Scripture and practical examples. Some of the chapter titles give a glimpse of the content:
 "Unmarried Women in the Covenant Community,"
"Is this really God's best?"
 "Don't pretend to be Happy,"
 "Dressing with a Worldview,"
 "Guard your Heart,"
 and "Setting Standards of Personal Holiness," name a few.

One of my favorite chapters, though, was "Cheerfulness is Good Medicine," and one of my favorite sections was this:
          "If an unmarried woman is glum, she will certainly take that glumness with her into marriage. Even if she thinks the reason for her sadness is the fact of her unmarried state, after she is married she will find new reasons to be unhappy. We are to rejoice in the Lord, not in our circumstances. Our reason for cheerfulness is found in Him, not in any situation or creature. 

          In other words, for every Christian, the source of our happiness is God, and the direction of our happiness is toward Him as well. He bestows a spirit of joy upon us, and we return it to Him in our praise and thanksgiving. The unmarried woman must make use of God's grace to walk in a spirit of joy and cheerfulness, paying attention to her demeanor and conduct, striving to please God and to be a source of comfort and blessing to those around her. This is a duty for all Christians of course, but I am making particular application here for those women without the joys of a husband and children. It would be easy to slip into a negative mindset, and this is unhealthy, unbiblical, undisciplined, and unattractive. A cheerful attitude is a grace that bestows loveliness." 
                                             ~Nancy Wilson, "Why isn't a Pretty Girl Like You Married?" pg.60.

Whether it is God's will for me to be married or not, I thought those words were helpful! And now my brain is melting down, so I will go to bed. If you don't "see" me again before then, a very Merry and Blessed Christmas to you all!


Thursday, December 15, 2011


I get a break from textbooks!!!! Don't get me wrong; I absolutely love to learn, but I was ready for a break from assignments. Ready to stop telling my siblings, "I'm sorry, I don't have time to be with you." Ready to read something other than textbooks. Ready to help my parents more. Ready to sleep a little more!

Here's some things I've been enjoying in the last few days:

  • Baking dozens of Christmas cookies with my siblings.
  • Playing Christmas duets with my violin-playing sisters.
  • Reading..and reading...and some more reading! I've gotten the chance to dig into the Word more, particularly in the book of Hebrews. I've also been reading Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, Holiness by J.C. Ryle, and a book by Nancy Wilson about living in a joyful and contented way while unmarried. All have been good! 
  • Running some errands--some are fun Christmas errands!
  • Getting back into Scripture memorization. Watch out, there's a post about the blessings of hiding His word in our hearts coming up soon...
  • Learning more about some exciting possibilities post-graduation next year. 
What do you enjoy doing during the Christmas season? 


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Need a Little Hair Gel?

Sometimes, it's the little things in life that make me laugh. I love that God has given us so many things in life to laugh and smile and be joyful about, from big things like salvation, to little things like the funny tuft between a donkey's ears.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Not Home Yet

"If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, 
the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world"
- CS Lewis

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Baby Like No Other-Video

Now that we've officially entered the Christmas season, I thought I'd share a Christy Nockels song that I've actually been enjoying for a few months now. It is incredible to pause and remind myself that the tiny baby that entered the world in a dirty lonely stable that night so long ago was...

a Prince on a Rescue Mission.

A King set on rescuing His people, no matter the cost.

God Himself intent on redeeming the glory due Him.

A Son willing to be obedient to the point of death.

God and yet also Man, ready to suffer to redeem His creation.

The Word of Life come to fulfill all that was promised of Him in His Word, the Bible.

A Great High-Priest ready and able to propitiate for the sins of all.

A Lamb prepared for slaughter so that the angel of death might pass over His chosen people.

A Lion come to conquer the sting of death and vanquish the prince of darkness.

Is this baby your Savior? Is He your hope for eternal life?

"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." ~John 14:6

Friday, December 2, 2011

I'm Still Alive!

Hello friends! Yes, I still live and breathe-though I wasn't sure I was going to make it through that 20 page final paper. I'm glad to be done with that! Now just two more finals and then it will be Christmas for real!

To prove that I survived the month of November, I'll post a couple pics from our recent trip up North for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful time! Hopefully I'll get back into the routine of blogging before long.

The best part: Anna and her husband Aaron joined us on vacation!! Oh and of course their baby (Pixie, as we're calling him/her) came along with the new mommy. I'm looking forward to being "favorite aunt."

My sweet and silly littlest sister, who absolutely loves snow.
 Way back when Aaron first started courting Anna, Joe dubbed him "Spiderman," claiming he bore a strong resemblance to Peter Parker. Aaron has consistently denied this, but when he started nimbly scaling this rock outcropping, we all told him that the truth was out. Spiderman it is.

 Anna and Daria hugging. Anna's friendship has meant a lot to Daria as she has adjusted so bravely to a new life in America.

 It was a grey chilly day, but we enjoyed the snow and the beauty of the hike.

The family Gigglebox!

 Aaron and Anna graciously demonstrated different "levels" of romance: this picture was rated "G" (Don't worry, they were good in front of us unmarried children)

Alexander: "Aaron, you ready for this snowball???"

 Oksana and Joe

That's all for now, folks.


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Author of Radical Speaks on Missions

David Platt, author of the book Radical, speaking at the Desiring God conference. I try to only rave about things that are truly remarkable-and this counts. I promise you won't regret the hour you spend watching this!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Random Picture Time

If you don't like random old pictures, don't read this. I was enjoying some pictures and memories today, and was reminded of how many amazing things God has done for our family.

"Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt boutifully with you"
                                                                                                            ~ Psalm 116:7

When we lived in England, I hated wearing coats and would stick with just gloves. '
Yes, I note  the huge 90s hairbow!

Loved our string quartet days. I'm still hoping we can have some "jamming" sessions together!
Adoption paperwork-2010. So grateful for all the prayers that got us through this stage!
A little girl I saw in St. Petersburg. I loved her glamor, but was amazed to see the huge contrast between the loved children with parents and the orphans I was privileged to work with.

My oldest sister Anna.  I think she was an adorable baby!  I'm excited to see what she and Aaron's baby will look like...
My sister "Princess Bink" in December 2004 in her orphanage.

 And here she is after a few months at home. I love the visible difference love made in her life.
Duluth September 2011-we took a boat cruise which was wonderful-I love any chance to get out on a boat.
My beautiful sisters, December 2010-their first Christmas home.
Tennessee, October 2009
My parents with my brother "Alexander" in Moscow January 2010. Yes, he's the one crossing his eyes. Alexander is our 24/7/365 family comedian.
*Sigh* You have to stick in a nerdy old picture now and then. Yes, the girl on the left is yours truly 16 years ago.

My youngest sister with her daddy, Moscow November 2010.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Orphan Sunday 2011

Picture taken this August when I was in St. Petersburg Russia 

Orphan Sunday, a day set apart to worship God through loving care of the fatherless and vulnerable, is almost over. It was amazing to hear believers praying in Indonesian, Amharic, Swahili, Vietnamese, Russian, Spanish, and of course English that the church might see the world with God's compassionate eyes; that we would be courageous and adopt as God adopted us; that the church would wake up out of self-absorption and shine Christ's light and love on the world.

Orphan care is not a social gospel movement; it's not to make us feel good about ourselves; it's not even ultimately about the orphans themselves. It's about God. It's that His name deserves to be glorified among all peoples; it's that He's a big and compassionate God and calls us to be compassionate as well. It's that He's the Father of the fatherless and He places the lonely in families. Orphan care is about missions; it's about giving the broken and hopeless healing and hope through the precious news of a Savior and Rescuer who loves them and cares for them.

God doesn't call a few people to care for the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. In His word, He clearly calls all His people to demonstrate His love to the needy. It may not be comfortable or easy, but if you step out in obedience, you will come to know our compassionate God more deeply and He will shower His blessings and His care upon you. So how can you get involved? Here's just a few ideas (if you hadn't noticed I like lists so here goes another one!):

  • Visit http://www.christianalliancefororphans.org/ for ideas, resources, and information, all presented in a God-honoring, Biblical way.
  • Pray for orphans. Choose a country or a certain group (foster care, teens, kids with HIV, etc.) and pray for them on a daily basis. God will hear your prayer and answer in amazing ways!
  • Pray that the church will be a shining light to unbelievers through loving care of the needy. Here's a wonderful example of the church doing just that. 
  • Support an adoptive family. Pray for them, provide meals for them, babysit, organize a fundraiser, give financially, listen to them, and encourage them-and please don't forget them after their adoption! Wonderful College Plus friends provided incredible prayer cover and our church provided amazing help in other ways during our family's last adoption and I literally cannot tell you how much that meant. It is thanks to the support of loving friends that we are doing as well as we are.
  • Start an orphan care ministry in your church. See the Christian Alliance for Orphans site above for help
  • Pack a shoe box...or two...or ten for Operation Christmas Child! 
  • Investigate how you can love on local foster kids.
  • Support a local foster family.
  •  Adopt. If you are holding back on this because of fear, step out anyway. God will take care of you. If you are holding back because of finances, step out anyway. God (and hopefully the church) will take care of you. If you are holding back because of selfishness, I've been there and done that-repent and start the adoption process! You will be blessed and stretched beyond your wildest imagination, and you will change the life, and perhaps eternal life of an orphan forever.
I'm wrapping this up because I've said way too much again. But please, don't read through this and think "this is for someone else." No. We were loved by God and adopted by Him when we hated Him and were hostile to Him. We all are called, we all are given the privilege of spreading God's praise and making His name beautiful by self sacrificially loving the broken and needy.

So will you answer the call? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Don't Underestimate Her

          Maybe this sounds harsh, but I think sometimes the stay-at-home American mother can feel like a second class citizen. Isn't it ironic that the feminist push of the 1970's, which sought to "liberate" women has left many women chasing careers, torn over or just plain negative about motherhood and wifehood, and in general, unhappy (The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, Stevenson and Wolfers)?

         Please don't get me wrong! I understand that there are situations in which a woman has to work outside the home. I also believe that the Proverbs 31 woman sets a beautiful standard of a strong woman who supplements the family income with her own creativity and industry (Proverbs 31:13, 16, 17, 24). Some wonderful and godly women never get married, like my own dear Aunt Jean, who not only worked hard to support herself, but also offered love and support to my grandma and her three young boys when my grandpa was killed.
        Nevertheless, I think that mothers who do have the great privilege of staying home with their children can often be shamed by the culture or discouraged by the seeming mundane-ness of their task. I've seen people unconsciously minimize the enormous, daunting, and beautiful task my mom tackles everyday. I've had many well-meaning people respond to my spoken dream of someday being a stay-at-home mom with, "Are you sure you want to do that? It will be a waste of your talents and abilities! You could really get into a good career and make a difference in the world." Let me clearly state that I'm flattered and grateful that they think I have talents and abilities. But I think they're missing out on the idea that motherhood isn't all about emptying the dishwasher or wiping runny noses for the millionth time. Being a mother is ultimately about preparing souls for their true and fulfilling purpose of glorifying God and enjoying Him as King and Savior of their lives. 

         Though the process is long and painstaking, moms have the incredible opportunity of molding a godly character in their child and encouraging them to become men and women who can change the world through their passion to "love God with all they got, and love their neighbor 'til they drop." In a long-term sense, moms  can not only "make a difference in the world" (see paragraph above), they can multiply the difference they make through their children!


         I'm not a mom, and I obviously don't understand everything about this issue. There's lots of godly mothers who have made a difference through a ministry or a business or in some way outside their role as "mom." But I just want to cheer on those mothers (including my own) who pour themselves out and sacrifice so that their children will grow into passionate God-fearing, people-serving men and women.

Don't believe me? Read up on these women and how they impacted their children:
  • Mrs. Beaver (yes, my mom!)
  • Hannah (mother of Samuel; see 1 Samuel)
  • Susannah Wesley (mother of John and Charles Wesley)
  • Ruth Graham (mother of Franklin Graham) 
  • Sarah Edwards (wife of Jonathan Edwards and mother of 10)

And here are a few quotes from others grateful for their mothers: 

"I remember my mother's prayers--and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life."         ~Abraham Lincoln

"All that I have ever accomplished in my life I owe to my mother."    ~D.L. Moody

"My mother's kiss made me a painter."     ~Benjamin West, first great American painter

"The influence of a good mother is worth more than a thousand school masters"     ~George Herbert

"If I am Thy child, only God, it is because Thou gavest me such a mother."     ~St. Augustine 

Thanking God for my own mother,

Monday, October 31, 2011

That His Name Be Praised

 This song was shared in church yesterday: whether you're a "sender" or a "goer," it's a good reminder of the ultimate mission of missions.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Time to Rethink

"All I can do is pray," I thought. A second later I had a mental, "Whoa, there!" as I realized what my thought implied. Although I hate to admit it, my deep-down throught process was, "If I could only step in and have a hand in this situation, I know exactly how I could 'fix' it. But I guess I'll have to let God do the best He can."


It's embarrassing and rather sad that I could think that way. I want to have big thoughts about a BIG and GREAT God. And obviously the words "O ye of little faith" could apply to me when it comes to prayer. Still, I feel a little better when I realize that the disciples themselves had the same problem-and yet Jesus didn't give up on them. So I'm asking Him to do the same for me. I echo His followers in saying "Lord, teach me to pray." I'm going to be spending a while seaching the Bible for what God says about prayer. I'm so glad to know it has answers for me!

On a slight side tangent, I find it so amazing that God is completely sovereign over all circumstances and yet in a mysterious way He uses and listens to our prayers. God is utterly sovereign and prayer changes things. And yes, it's okay if your mind is spinning over that (mine is too);  thankfully we don't have to have God and His ways figured out!

I've seen God do great things in answer to prayer. I believe He can do mind-boggling things in response to our requests. He is so good to listen to us! So I say with the father in Mark 9:24 "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."


Friday, October 28, 2011

Made for Each Other

Though they look a little stiff in this picture, I love this sweet quote by Calvin Coolidge about his wife Grace:

"We thought we were made for each other. For almost a quarter of a century she has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces." 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Молитва за сирот-video

This video was created by Ukrainian Christians for Orphan Sunday (November 6, 2011): a day for the church to remember and act on behalf of the fatherless and vulnerable. In the words of Jedd Medefind on the Christian Alliance for orphans blog, the Ukrainian church is "on fire" in its desire to adopt and care for the orphans in its country. *Enter personal commentary: It makes me extremely excited to see Christ's church on the other side of the world passionately living out the Gospel to the needy!*

(The video is called "Prayer for Orphans," and the words at the end basically say that there are more than 30,000 orphans in Ukraine and that each person's prayer can make a difference.)

Is the church in America on fire to live out James 1:27? Please leave a comment if your church is doing something for Orphan Sunday! I would love to hear from you.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Sure and Certain Goals

As graduation draws near (sort of) the questions about my future have started coming thick and fast from well meaning friends. And the truth is, I don't really know yet! So this past Sunday, I just started writing down some things I know "for sure and certain" about how I should use my future. I'm confident that with trust in God and some further exploring of my options, I can find a way to use my post-school time in a God-honoring way.

(These are listed in no particular order)

  • Even in everyday mundane things, do all to God's glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Set my mind  on heavenly things, not on what wins the world's praise (Colossians 3:1-4)
  • What is God's will for my life? That I glorify Him, and, as a part of that, grow in sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4)
  • I am still called to honor and obey my parents (Ephesians 6:1-3, Colossians 3:20)
  • If I want to be wise, I will seek and receive counsel (Proverbs)
  • God has called me to tell others about Jesus (among other places, Matthew 28:18-20)
  • Jesus has called me to deny self (Luke 9:23)
  • I am to use the gifts God has given me for God's glory and the edification of other Christians (1 Peter 4)
  • I can live in light of the fact that my citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:21)
  • Marriage is not my hope or source of contentment, but I am to prepare physically and spiritually, and seek to do the husband God may have for me "good and not evil all the days of my life." (Proverbs 31) Can't hurt, even if I never get married!
  • A follower of Jesus cares for the vulnerable and shows them compassion (James 1:27, etc.)
  • I will treasure Jesus and seek to know and obey Him better and better (Philippians 3:8-11, etc)
This list isn't exhaustive, but it's a good place for me to start and rest in. And speaking of resting...


Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Call to Anguish

Yes, you read that right. But what in the world? Why would anyone be called to anguish?? Watch the incredible video (recommended by a family friend) below to find out.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

My New Friend

Ever heard of a sock monkey? Okay, so they can be a little creepy. But meet my Sock Elephant! He's not creepy;  maybe just a little disturbing, thanks to the fact that his body is comprised of 60+ odd socks that have no mate. Does anyone else have that problem? 
Thanks to my sister Cassandra in building the Sock Elephant. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yes, I'm excited!

Yes, I'm going to be an aunt. For the very first time. And in case anyone is wondering, excited doesn't come close. I'm thrilled! It is strange that my dear big sis who is only 15 months older than me is expecting her first, but we've already exchanged dozens of texts and looong phone calls to chatter about our excitement. My parent's infertility has taught me the value of a little one. And having ten adopted siblings who could easily have been aborted, I've come to realize and treasure the miracle of created life right from conception.

I took this picture with my cell phone a couple months ago....I like the message on it :) 

I'm counting down the days until I can hold my precious new niece or nephew. And if you'd like to keep up with how the new mommy and daddy are doing, you can visit www.youngandmarried.net.  


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Priorities, Priorities!

At risk of sounding like I'm complaining, these days school literally never ends. The deadlines press in hard and fast; assignment, project, midterm, paper, finals. And honestly I've had days (or maybe more) when the term "senior" applies in terms of total and utter exhaustion as well as my status in college. And since the assignments never end, the question continually arises: do I take a break to spend time with family? with friends? to take a walk in the beautiful fall weather? to blog? to read? to eat? breathe? You can see the decisions are endless!

However, there is definitely a positive side to feeling overwhelmed-it has shown me over and again how much I need Jesus' wisdom, strength, and sustaining power. As my own sin is revealed through this straining process (read: I've complained every now and then!), I am reminded forcefully of how that sin would completely separate me from a good and holy God were it not for the fact that Jesus is my rescuer. When I've felt completely exhausted physically and mentally it has driven me to the word for strength to go on, and there I've seen His
majesty (Isaiah 45),
compassion (Matthew 20:34),
power (Mark 4:41),
meekness (Matthew 11:28)
wisdom (Colossians 2:3), 
love (John 15:13),
forgiveness (Luke 23:34),
holy zeal (Matthew 21:13),
victory over death (Luke 24:6)

and more...oh much, much more. The more I learn about Him, the more I know I have to learn-and it's been amazing to realize more and more that He wants me to know Him more-that when I seek Him, He draws near to me and teaches me (James 4:8a). I risk rambling, but I sum up my vent about school with a couple quotes that have reminded me how precious it is to know Jesus.

"May my cry be always, Only Jesus! only Jesus!
In Him is freedom from condemnation,
Fullness in His righteousness,
Eternal vitality in His given life,
Indissoluble union in fellowship with Him;
In Him I have all that I can hold;
Enlarge me to take in more."
                                      ~ Valley of Vision, The Life Look, pg. 97

"I dare not say but my Lord Jesus hath fully recompensed my sadness with His joys my losses with His own presence. I find it a sweet and rich thing to exchange my sorrows with Christ's joys, my afflictions with that sweet peace I have with Himself."
                                            ~Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ, pg. 48

"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings..."
                                                                                       ~Philippians 3:8-10