missionaries serving with Campus Crusade for Christ and FamilyLife

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Making up for lost time....

There is so much joy in the smallest of moments right now. We are experiencing first everything moments.... first bike rides, first peanut butter & jelly, first group hug, and so much more....
Our hearts are filled with gratitude to God for this journey.

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
 Psalm 9:1
Such joyful moments today.
Grateful Baba & Mama tonight.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Minor Details?

We don't typically blog on a regular basis. God is growing us in this area. We have had several folks ask us to keep up with the blog if we felt comfortable. We are not eloquent communicators, but we are praying that He would be glorified as we share His work in our family and our ministry. Thanks for your love, patience and encouragement! We are going to give it a shot with His help.

So, here is the latest..... We will officially be home from China 1 month this Thursday. Time is flying as we press into Him and work at our "new normal" as a family of 8.

Google translate continues to provide ample comic relief and confusion! We learned this week that all this time Mercy thought we lived in ALASKA! She asked us when the snow was coming. We explained that we don't get a lot of snow here and it usually isn't until January or February. She had a confused look on her face and asked for confirmation regarding our location. "We live in Alaska, right?" What?? Somehow... somewhere in the communication.... Mercy thought we lived in Alaska. Ha?!?! She explained that she is not a big fan of cold. OK, well, welcome to Arkansas, sweet girl. Welcome to heat, humidity and just a little bit of cold!

She is getting a little bit more confident with her English. It is so much fun to see her interact with friends and the public. For example, she ventured to the store with Mama today. She often hears Jen call the kids, "baby" or "sissy". She told the clerk today, "thank you, baby!" and then told another clerk, "thank you, sissy!" We have to really control our laughter so as not to stifle her desire to try. She is learning very quickly and we are truly enjoying her. God is at work in her life. She is precious and so loved. We cannot imagine our lives without either of our two new daughters. What a joy and a privilege to love them with HIS heart. He is growing us in so many beautiful ways. We are learning so very much about HIS patience, kindness, tenderness and love for us personally! HE has put so much love in our hearts for these kiddos.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

We continue to work hard at playing, eating, laughing, loving and growing together. We are praying for attachment, trust, security and unity in our family. Here are some of our recent activities...

Playtime in the backyard is great fun for all! It doesn't matter what the temperature. Baba and Mama are pretty happy to see some fall temps this week!

Allie dusted off all of her boxed up doll stuff to play with Mercy. This is her favorite thing to do right now. As is true with many children from orphanages, they miss typical periods of a "normal" childhood. Mercy probably hasn't had a lot of simple toys and playtimes like this. It is a true joy to watch her enjoy this doll playtime and give her a small piece of childhood.

Play-doh is another big hit these days.
This is Mercy working on Rosetta Stone- English and Allie working on Rosetta Stone- Mandarin. Both have personal tutors! Incredible!

We are also working really hard to make sure each kiddo has had some one-on-one time this week. Whew- it is hard to accomplish but so very important. We are finding that it is a great help with keeping tabs on everyone! Baba and Zach did a 10 mile bike ride.

The kids would say this was the highlight of the week for them. We found a park nearby where you can "sled" down the hills on boxes. We surprised the crew and spent some time sledding (Alaska has nothing on us)!

Aren't these cute little PJ snuggle bugs?

We are continuing our weekly meeting with our dear friends. We are so grateful for their help with translation. They are an incredible answer to prayer for our family.

Just the girlies!


We sure tried to get sister pictures of Zoey and Bethany Joy. We could not get our BJ to cooperate. Zoey was so sweet and really wanted to help. We tried and tried. In the end, we got some beautiful shots of Zoey. We will keep trying for our BJ- hopefully before she outgrows her pretty dress!


We are filled with praise for God. He is meeting us in our needs. We feel a little like a duck family right now. Baba and Mama are pressing forward and watching out for 6 ducklings following behind. We are mindful of each child and their individual needs. We are aware that we are not able to do all of this in our own power. We feel messy, awkward, chaotic and totally desperate for God. We are reaching out to Him and asking Him to help us find our way in all of this.
We have had folks drop groceries. We have had meals delivered by precious friends on just the right days. We have experienced kindness, love and prayers from people we barely know. Dear friends here offered to come to our house and watch the kids this week so we could go on a date. We did it (huge step for us). Everyone did well. We have been overwhelmed by the kindness of other dear friends offering to host a welcome home party for our girls.
It is humbling to receive help. We are grateful for all the ways God has ministered hope and encouragement to us through the body of Christ.
Thank you to everyone who continues to pray for our family. We have some critical doctor appointments for Jacob and Bethany Joy this week.
Praising Him and trusting Him with all of our hearts,
Art & Jen

Saturday, September 14, 2013

How do large families do this ????

We keep finding ourselves saying this phrase over and over again. Jen said it during home school this week. How do large families do this? We said it again during meal planning and grocery shopping. How do large families do this? We even said it during house cleaning and chore day. How do large families do this?

We are learning little by little just how large families do this! We have lots to learn for sure!

Mercy and Zoey are both adjusting day by day. They are picking up more English words. Zoey now yells in front of the other kiddo bedrooms, "Zoey come in!" She is catching on quickly with other important words, too. "Please", "thank you" and "I love you" are part of her vocabulary, as is, "banana", "apple" and "ice cream." :)

Mercy recognizes Starbucks and KFC from China. She yells and points when she sees those businesses around town. She is very proud to say, "please", "thank you" and "you are welcome." She is understanding words like "tomorrow", "clean up", "brush teeth", and most of all "jump on the trampoline!"

We have a dear Chinese friend who is willing to come once a week to offer his help in translation. We are using this 2-hour period to do a "check up" with Mercy. We are talking about the calendar in the coming week and reviewing things that occurred in the past week. For example, we talked about the upcoming doctor appointments on Tuesday. He helped us explain the specifics of a blood test and exam so we could ease her fears. We talked through a difficult evening this past week when Mercy was extremely fearful during a thunder/lightning storm. We are finding this time to be both valuable and challenging. We are also trying to give her an "open mic" to discuss feelings, concerns, and questions she might have.

Today, she let our friend know she was very concerned about the American tradition/policy of kicking our children out of the home at 18 years of age. She told our friend she was really afraid about where she would go and what she would do when we wanted to get rid of her in 4 years. :(

Wow, it was a reminder that so much is going on in her head. Older child adoption is amazing, thrilling and complex. Our hearts ache for her. We pray she will be able to feel safe, secure, loved, chosen and precious. We are praying she would truly understand that we are her parents for always and forever. We reassured her of our love, support and commitment to her. We expressed that families are forever.

We sing a bedtime song with all of our kids. We call it our family song. We made a little tune and we sing each of the family member names in order of age. The kids giggle and wiggle as we get close to their name. Zoey squeals her name and grins ear to ear as we say her name. Mercy prides herself on getting all the names correct now. It is a joy to sing this song.

We stand in awe of what GOD has done to bring our family together. We pray these kids would truly begin to believe the truth that we love them always and forever. They are an important part of our family. We pray they would come to know Christ. We pray they would know His plans for them are good.

 Again and again, God is ministering TRUTH to our hearts about HIS faithfulness, HIS compassion, HIS love and HIS unchanging character.

Looking to Him as we learn how large families do everything!

Praying for HIS glory in our lives,
Art, Jen, Allie, Mercy, Zach, Jacob, Zoey and Bethany Joy

Learning to cook with Mama & Allie!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Building Connections & Google Translate

We have had some hilarious comic relief come from using Google translator. One of our favorite was when Mercy heard Zachary answer Mama with a "yes, Ma'am". She was really confused & upset with Zachary. She was telling him, "no, no, no... say yes, Mama". So, we got the handy translator out to explain. It translates it to "yes, Queen". Mercy's eyes got huge and her jaw dropped. She asked us, "really, Mama is a queen?" She was serious. We were laughing so hard we could not correct it immediately. All the kids spent the rest of the day pretending that Mama was royalty. We had some pretty good laughs.
The other thing that has happened is major confusion. Mercy was using the translator to tell Mama that she hasn't been in school for a long time in the orphanage. Mama responded, "yes, I know. I am glad you are not there anymore." Only it translated the response as " I am glad you don't exist." We watched her facial expressions move from shock to hurt to outrage. She shouted, "oh, yes?" We knew pretty quick there had been a misunderstanding. It took the next 20 minutes going back & forth trying to sort out the breakdown in communication. We eventually got to the laughing stage. Mama even acted out giving the translator a scolding for messing up the conversation. Mercy laughed hysterically. Whew... it was a good reminder that this translator is very unreliable. We have now scheduled some mandarin speaking friends for weekly visits so we can make sure we are having some regular, deep & clear communication.
We are sharing time on the trampoline, game time & now.... we are even sharing a head cold! Mama got sick and the rest seem to be following along. :) We are having a lot of fun learning to be a family together. We made another trip back to the Chinese grocery market to stock up on a few favorites.
Then, we had two nights in a row of better food experiences for Mercy. She tried a little bit more of our meal last night & tonight. We feel she is really brave trying things she has never seen before.  We were not as brave in China with her food as she is being here with our food. What a trooper!
Many will be relieved to know she is a huge fan of Whole Hog BBQ! Baba thinks that is great news!

 Art streamed JESUS FILM for kids in Mandarin the other day. She watched the whole thing & seemed very interested. She didn't have a lot of questions or dialog afterwards. In fact, she asked if they could all go jump on the trampoline.
Then, today we saw the sweetest thing .....
Mercy snuggled up in the chair reading her Bible.

Thanks to everyone who continues to pray faithfully for our family. We are trusting HIM with all of our hearts. We are praying that God would be glorified in our family & in yours.

With joy,
Art, Jen, Allie, Mercy, Zachary, Jacob, Zoey, Bethany Joy

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

We are home & the fog is clearing!

It has been 6 days since we arrived home. Wow, almost a week. It feels like a blur. We remember this jetlag very well. Yuck! We are getting dressed and functioning again.

Wow! We were really blessed to arrive home to a group of dear, smiling, loving, precious friends at the airport. It was a long trip home and we were so glad to get back to Little Rock. It was wonderful to re-unite with our other children.

Leaving Hong Kong....

Arriving home to Little Rock....

We are trying to stay really close to home & build some routines for the girls. We are working hard at playing, laughing, touching, eating & living together. Adoption stuff! It seems so easy but it is not. It is especially tricky with an older adoption. God is faithful and He is meeting us in answered prayers.

Both girls are loving siblings, toys, playing & JUMPING on the trampoline in the backyard. It is HOT here!! It has been in the 90s to 100s. It doesn't stop them a bit. They want to JUMP. We have yet to bring the camera with us for some shots. Working on that! Just imagine 6 crazy kiddos jumping- hot & sweaty!

Mercy loves her room with Allie (no necessarily sleeping in there, yet). She had a lot of fun trying on some of her clothes. She especially enjoyed the dresses.

Food is a particularly hard area for our Mercy. Zoey, on the other hand, will eat anything we put in front of her. We visited a local Asian grocery market together. We asked her to pick out some of her favorite things. This Mama has some serious learning curve in the kitchen. I thought I was prepared with my skills in making Jiaoza dumplings, fried rice, steamed veggies and such. These kiddos are bringing it to another level. I am learning about quail eggs, chicken feet, bean curd Baozi and so much more. We are so grateful to have some friends at the local Chinese church who are willing to teach me. I am heading back to their cooking school soon!

We want to be transparent with you and let you know we need your prayers. Adoption is beautiful, miraculous, thrilling, amazing and incredible. It is also....hard. We are trusting HIM with all of our hearts as we press forward day by day. One of the greatest needs is for the English language to come quickly. It is very difficult and probably frustrating for Mercy especially to have to use the Google translator for most communication. It is fairly easy with a toddler to act out needs, play and be silly together. It is much harder with a teen. She has a lot more going on in her head. We long to be able to have some in depth conversations with her. Google translate is very limited. Sentences need to be basic. Even then.... it is clear meanings get chopped up. She woke with a stomach ache the other night. She was hurting. We were trying to figure out her need. It was so hard to pass the phone back and forth and keep missing the meaning. For example... she couldn't understand, "do you feel like you are going to throw up?" Who knows how that translated. We ended up typing, "vomit?" The answer was "no", by the way! :) We worked through it, but all we wanted to do was help her and fix it. It was really hard.

Another major area is fear. Mercy has a lot of fears. We learned that nannies at her orphanage locked the building and left the children every night. Wow, just heartbreaking to us. We have so much compassion for our girl. There are many more details, like having access to scary movies, etc. Our girl has some pretty serious fears. She is currently sleeping on the floor in our master bedroom while Zoey is in our bed. We have a full house in the master bedroom. We would appreciate your prayers in the area of fear. We have already begun some discussions (through Google translator) about our faith and our hope in Jesus. She is open to learning more. We explained that we don't have to live in fear because we know God is in control. We know He is always watching over us and His plans for us are good. We showed her some verses in her Bible. It was good for her and for us!!! She said she wanted to learn more about Jesus.

Clinging to HIM, trusting HIM & praising HIM-
Art, Jen, Allie, Mercy, Zachary, Jacob, Zoey & Bethany Joy