Friday, December 30, 2011

My Daughter's Prayers

Despite the fact that my daughter, Lissie, is thirty years my junior, I find myself learning much from her. She has an exceptional faith in God.

One of the ways Lissie's belief in our astonishing God has grown wings is in her prayers for orphaned children. In 2009, Lissie learned of a boy who needed parents, a home, a family, and, most importantly, the ONLY answer to his numberless needs--the gospel. Unbeknownst to her parents, she began to pray. She tells the story of Christmas 2009 far better than I can. Please take a look at her most recent post.

I want to pray, believing--like my Lissie does--that God hears. I want to pray, believing--like my Lissie does--that God moves. I want to pray, believing--like my Lissie does--that God reaches down into broken lives and heals. I want to pray like my Lissie does--believing.

Although Lissie's story in her post is about God's answer to her prayers about her newest brother, I couldn't easily find a photo of Lissie and "Alexander" (Nikolai) together in Russia, so I've posted pictures of Lissie and the two girls we adopted at the same time. Lissie has played a key role in each of our adoptions of nine older children over the past decade. She prays, and then she loves--while continuing to pray fervently for each of her siblings' healing and salvation. She prays--believing. She's a hero to me.

Oksana (6) and Lissie (18) in G.U.M., the elegant mall in Red Square, Moscow,
November 2010, the week our family traveled to Russia
to bring home our three new family members

Lissie and Daria (15) in G.U.M.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Penetrating Light

O Great God Who Sees All, Knows All and is All Wise,

Please make Jim and me aware of any sin in our home with which You know we need to deal.

Please start Your sin-illumination by showing Jim and me our "logs" (Luke 6:41). Please help the two of us to see our sin, loathe our sin, and be filled with humble self-abasement that fills us with love for You, the wrath-enduring substitute who makes our forgiveness possible.

Lord, as You shine your Light on our children's "splinters" (Luke 6:41), please fill us with Christ's compassion for the lost. Please grant that, with the Holy Spirit living in us, we might overflow with patience.

We are unworthy parents marred by rebellion against You, and yet you've blessed us with 13 children and a grandchild on the way. You are so good. Please mold us into the image of Your Son that we might parent in a way that glorifies You.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Safe Place

Cottage on the grounds of the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

This morning I pulled out a book called Christlike Parenting that I read several years ago. This book has so many well-articulated insights that when I read it, I seriously "porcupined" it. (In other words, I put enough sticky tabs next to passages that caught my attention that the book looked like a porcupine by the time I finished).

I got Christlike Parenting back out because I sensed I was starting the day all too much like a real porcupine--prickly toward my children as I saw this or that wrong they'd done. I flipped open the book to one of the tabs and read. I found the Lord had led me to just the right reminder:
"As parents, it is our responsibility to create a Christlike 'world' in our homes, a safe place where children behave because they enjoy the pleasant consequences of doing so, rather than to avoid the unpleasant consequences of behaving badly. It is a world in which a child thinks 'I know my parents will appreciate me,' rather than thinking, 'I'm only doing this to get my parents off my back,' or 'I am only doing this because I don't want to get beat on' (verbally or physically)." Glenn Latham, Christlike Parenting, pg.52
I immediately thought of Proverbs 16:24:
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
I think the proverb could be paraphrased in these ways (and probably many more):
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to my child."
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the relationship."

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the family."
Words that build up and demonstrate gratitude have such power! God designed encouraging words that way, and He designed we humans to need encouragement. When we nurture our children with words, they are more likely to be attracted to us and our love of Christ, rather than being repelled by us and that which is most important to us--our Saviour. What a simple tool encouraging words are and they're always right at our disposal! But, of course, the use of any tool takes intentionality.

I finished my perusal of Latham's book begging the Lord to help me make our home the "safe place" the author describes, giving me the the will to bathe my children in words which will build them up and encourage a hunger for a personal relationship with Jesus.
(I want to state plainly that Mr. Latham shares many ideas in his book with which my husband and I DO NOT agree. For example, he does not believe in the use of the rod, while we see clear evidence that the Bible commands us to use the rod under certain circumstances and ALWAYS with a humble, anger-free heart. If you purchase the book, please pass each of the author's thoughts through the sieve of the Bible.)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Wonder of Babies

With my first grandchild due in June and the celebration of Christ's birth nearly upon us, I have been thinking about what a wonder babies are. What a wonder our God is!

Here are more photos of Caleb:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

God's Jewels

Yesterday morning our world was dusted with diamonds. 
For those of you who live in a warmer climate and are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, it's called hoar frost. It often follows nighttime fog.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Visit to a Poinsettia Palace

Last week Nathaniel, Tatiana and Amy had dental appointments. On our way home, we passed the largest nursery in town. Since I love, love, love taking photos of flowers, we stopped in to see what sort of pictures I could capture of the plant which is most closely associated with Christmas: the poinsettia. This poinsettia palace gave me countless photo ops. I hope to have a "Poinsettia Parade" each week as Christmas draws nearer. My goal is to bring some colorful cheer to your holiday.

We found hundreds of the plants in a variety of sizes and a rainbow of colors.

On my "Poinsettia Parade" this week is a rich red plant with gold glitter gracing the leaves.

We left the building amazed that so many hundreds of poinsettia's could be housed in one room (under three roofs).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"What Every Child Needs Most"

I wept as I edited these photos. I was overwhelmed as the images of my friends' devotion for their newborn grew large on my computer screen.

My wave of emotion stemmed, oddly enough, from an experience in a Russian courtroom. A little more than a year ago, my husband and I spent two days before a shrewd, droll judge, the last step in the arduous process of adopting Daria (15), Alexander (11) and Oksana (6). He repeatedly insinuated that he might not give us his approval. During the orphanage director's requisite testimony, she made a poignant statement. She locked her gaze on the judge and made it clear that she was in favor of the adoption, "At the children's home, we can give children everything they could ever need but what they need the most -- parents."

God prevailed, and the judge did make us Daria, Alexander and Oksana's parents. As that wonderful day closed, we had the opportunity to spend several hours at the orphanage with Daria and Alexander as our tour guides. The children's home astounded us. It was clean, well-equipped, and decorated with the brights colors children love. The staff dedicated themselves to creating a healing environment for their charges. The place seemingly offered everything a child could ever need. The only thing missing -- parents.

God, the Originator and Architect of the family, designed children to need tender affection and protectection from both a mother and father. Baby Caleb, whose photos I was recently priviliged to take, is fortunate to have parents united in their commitment to shelter him, teach him, train him and, probably, even suffer for him. They are devoted to Caleb's well-being and will do nearly anything to seek life's best for him. With tenacity, they'll pray and pray and pray for Caleb as they teach him about Christ and point him to the cross in their desperate hope to secure a perfect eternity for their son with Jesus as his Savior.

My friends' son is a blessed. He has what more than 147 million orphans lack. My heart aches for them as it rejoices for Caleb.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Announcing: NewSong Photography

One of my greatest joys is photography. One of my greatest passions is orphan care. A few months ago, it occurred to me that the two could be combined.

I need more study and practice...a lot more. I can't yet consistently take pictures of the quality that I would like. But eventually, with God's good grace, I would like to reach a professional level and then donate any profits I make from photographing children to organizations that participate in the care of the fatherless.

My hope is to call my business NewSong Photography. Repeatedly in God's word we're told to sing a new song to the Lord. For me this has been difficult. You see, I can't carry a tune; I'm not even able to sing the happy birthday song correctly after the hundreds of times I've heard it in my five decades of life!

However, I've discovered that I can express my own kind of 'new song' through photography. I look forward to the opportunity to serve my Saviour with a camera and computer.

(Here our four youngest children were willing to let me "practice" on them as we vacationed on the North Shore of Lake Superiour in Minnesota in September)

Nathasa (11-1/2), Oksana (7-1/2), Amy (9-1/2) & Nathaniel (12-1/2)

Oksana and Nathaiel were adopted from the same orphanage in Russia, November 2010

This star was the idea of our 16-year-old daughter, Daria. She and her 13-year-old sister, Tatiana, worked hard to get everybody positioned just right. Quite a bit of giggling went on before Daria was satisfied.

Amy (r) and Natasha are biological sisters with 14-year-old Tatiana. They were adopted from Russia in 2005.

Now the sibling bond they share is based on love alone, through a shower of God's grace.
For the Sake of My beloved Saviour's Name:
"I will sing a new song to You, O God."
~Ps 144:9a

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Golden Adornment

Yesterday was beeooootiful here! To celebrate a warm Friday, the kids and I took the makings of a picnic to the Iowa side of the Missiouri River for lunch. This is the first time we've been able to get close to the river since the surging waters closed roads and parks in May in what came to be known in the upper midwest as the 500-Year Flood.

In this photo, some of my girls, Daria (16), Cassandra (17) and Tatiana (14), are enjoying the warm sunshine resting on a berm created to hold the water back near the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

I couldn't figure out what Tatiana was fiddling with until a few minutes later, when she donned her creation--giant gold leaf  (teehee--sorry, couldn't resist the pun!:) earrings
Our teen girls joined by 11-year-old Natasha

I can tell silly Natasha is MY daughter, she loves her bling--just like her mama!

Did I ever mention that I love parenting girls? I'm so grateful to God that He has blessed me with nine daughters!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Time for Everything...

19-year-old Joe, my oldest son

I can't believe I have a son old enough to sport a beard.  However, we're only 11 days into "No Shave November," and Joe's Leprechaun-colored facial hair is flourishing on his ruddy chin. Kissing him is a new adventure in motherhood!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Power of Perfect Timing

"Like apples of gold in settings of silver,
Is a word spoken in right circumstances."
Proverbs 25:11

In order for my words to bless and not curse, their timing must be just right.

Sometimes--many times--this means waiting and praying. While waiting, my job is to trust the Lord that He will open the door when the situation is right, and, most importantly, when He has primed the heart of the hearer for what He is leading me to share.

In order for my words to be "like apples of gold in settings of silver," I must be a listener--to the Holy Spirit, rather than simply plowing ahead with my "wisdom." I want that kind of Holy Spirit sensitivity. I want to be patient enough to recognize "right circumstances." I want my words to be objects of beauty that draw the listener closer to Christ, not just blurt out my view.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Roadblock or Bridge?

"Do not claim honor" (Proverbs 25:6a)

I've done it again. I've "claimed honor" from my kiddos. Instead of having a gentle, humble spirit when a couple of my children did wrong this morning, I blustered (albeit quietly). While I didn't directly say, "You must honor me!", my very demeanor cried out, "I deserve better. Don't make my life hard by sinning. I don't want to have to invest time and energy into setting you back on the path of right behavior. I don't want to walk this road again."

What a wrong, wrong, wrong--even ridiculous--attitude toward parenting! One of the most significant facets of my role as a mom is to meekly and lovingly help my children see their wrong choices. When I stay in the right place myself, there is some chance that they may recognize their need for a Saviour. When I become a dark storm cloud of haughty frustration, I become a roadblock to Christ, rather than a bridge. When I resent their need for correction, I'm resenting the God who made me their mother. Yikes!

A major portion of my time will, by the very nature of fallen humanity, be spent guiding my kiddos back towards God and His ways. As each new opportunity presents itself, I need to preach to myself that I'm not alone in this role. God is with me. He is Emmanuel. He is also a promise-keeping God who has said that He will give me the patience, wisdom and endurance I need, if I'll just cry out to Him. When my kids go astray--and they will--I must beseech Him for help rather than blustering! My job is not to claim honor from my children. My job is to parent them in a way that honors God.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Just a Favorite Photo

This picture was taken in fall 2009 when Joe and Lissie qualified as finalists for the National Bible Bee, which was held in Washington D.C. Lissie and her dad have had a sweet relationship since she she was just bigger than a Beanie Baby. This photo sings of that closeness to me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sounding Forth

Note: I hope to start using this blog as more of a journal than I have been. I rarely have the time to fully develop my thoughts into well-ordered compositions, and yet, I don't want nudges from the Lord or specials moments from my days to slip away. If you are one of my blog's followers and find that this new format doesn't fit your needs, please feel free to change your status. I promise I won't be hurt if you withdraw as a follower!

Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota

This morning as I was reading 1 Thessalonians, I was struck by Paul's praise of the church in the ancient city of Thessalonica: "For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you" (1 Thes. 1:8).

I want those words to be able to be proclaimed about my life. I want my life to resound with the "word of the Lord."

As I teach my children to write, I'm urging them to use strong, descriptive words. Paul's phrase, "has sounded forth" certainly fits this category. The phrase implies acting with purpose, living with purpose, speaking with purpose. Somehow the phrase reminds me of a waterfall. As the water charges over the cliff, no one nearby can miss the roar or the resulting mist that rises from the foam at the base. The Thessalonians had encountered Christ. They knew the unutterably good news of his death on their behalf. Their sins had been swept away by His sacrifice, and now they can't help but sound forth the news of their changed lives to those they encounter.

Paul goes on to say in the same verse, "in every place your faith toward God has gone forth".  Again, I want those very words to describe my life. I want a robust "faith toward God" that sets me apart in an age of cynicism in which people look to self-help manuals for life's answers.

O Lord,
Please move in my heart that Your word might sound forth from my lips. You are worthy of proclamation. Please increase my faith until it flows forth from me like a roaring waterfall, to Your praise and glory.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Autumn's Gifts

Many in the Upper Midwest claim fall as their favorite season. It's no wonder! Here autumn means humidity-free days that still carry a hint of summer warmth, bathed in color.

Some scenes have delighted the photographer in me recently and left me in awe of our Creator: a bridge at a local park spread with golden leaves that crunch and crackle underfoot...

...autumn's auburn in full glory set against a backdrop of green and yellow...

 ...the same tree acting as a fiery umbrella when seen from underneath...

...and, even closer in, too many shades of crimson to count...

...the last of late summer's Golden Rod...

...and, finally, perfectly ripe berries, untouched as yet by frost.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Today our family returned to memorizing scripture. We'd really let the practice of writing God's word on our hearts (for the sake of meditating on it) slip away as we've lived through so many unusual events in the past year.

This verse caught my eye and resounded in my heart earlier in the week so I decided to make it my first goal:

"Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart;
for consider what great things He has done for you." (1 Samuel 12:24)

If ever there was a woman for whom God has done great things, I am she! Here is the greatest of my earthly blessings:

God has done great things for me!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sing a New Song

When our family was on its way home from a quick trip to Minneapolis, I caught sight of a truly prairie-looking chapel glowing in the last of the day's sunbeams. My family was kind enough to let me rocket out of the car to try to catch the last of the light that bathed the church. We read on a plaque that the building dated back to 1903.

Each time I pick up a camera, I do so desiring to find a way to glorify the Lord. I want my photographs to "sing a new song" of praise to my God. (Psalm 149:1)

Having the opportunity to capture this beautiful chapel at sunset had the feeling of worship to me. I moved around the building taking shots from many different angles overwhelmed by God's majesty as the sunlight slowly slipped away. I felt to blessed so have caught just such a building on just such a beautiful autumn evening. God is good and does good; I praise and thank my King and Saviour.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Look Back...and Remember

"Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
(Psalm 116:7)

Look back. Look back...and remember. Look back and remember God's care, His protection, His provision. "Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate." (Psalm 116:5) He who has cared so lovingly for you in the past will not abandon you now. He who has never betrayed you will not forsake you now.

He who was willing to send His own beloved son to die a horrific death after unspeakable torture that you might be saved, will He not continue to give His wise and loving attention to the minutest details of your life?

So, look back. Look back...and remember. Then, look forward with trust, hope and, in faith, rest in your great Creator and Maker.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Beauty of Black and White

Today I was trying to update Lissie's photo on our family blog. However, I failed miserably when it came to the coloration of the photos. Thankfully, Picasa (the photo editing software I'm using) allowed me to salvage the picture in black and white.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011