It’s been 2 months and so many, many moments I’ve desired to sit and share with you what we’ve seen unfolding before our eyes. So many moments of victory and of challenge. I’ll try and share a story that is even now being written and the lessons we are presently learning through it all.
Out of any picture I could paint through words, the one I see as I close my eyes, is one of MERCY. There have been so many heart wrenching, uncomfortable, scary, tear filled, emotional moments since those days this past fall when we met our sons.
But right amidst all the hard, right in the mess I’ve seen a strong, loving, and mercy-filled Savior willing to dwell with us. It’s been Jesus who has walked right along side us. In the tired, in the loud, in the pain, in the mistakes…….He lends His hands, His feet, His voice, His mercy anew every day.
In tears I can hardly fathom that the same Jesus who hung in our place upon that cross, rose up and conquered death, who trained disciples, healed the sick and demon possessed, who sent the Holy Spirit as a rushing wind, and who even now sits at the right hand of our Father…wants to dwell here. In the mess. In the moments I feel weary. He is never ashamed of me, or dissapointed in my tears of frustration. He chooses, desires even, to be here with us. HE IS NOT AFRAID OF OUR MESSES. We do not serve a God who shies away from our frailty, but desires to draw all the more near to touch and fill our empty places with His strength and love.
When Christ found me I was a mess, and still make a mess from time to time. When we met our boys we found some things that were scary and messy. But God opened our eyes to see how we had been found, loved, healed, and assures our hearts even now HE ISN’T FINISHED!
It’s such a mystery to me, yet in accepting this mercy… I find freedom. Freedom from condemnation, doubt, or frustration with others that stems from my flesh and pride. HE USES THIS MERCY REVEALED TO SOFTEN, HUMBLE, AND FILL MY HEART SO THAT I HAVE THIS SAME MERCY TO GIVE…..TO THOSE WHO NEED IT IN MY LIFE.
Maybe this is a simple, foundational message, but I have needed it more than any other lately.
The healing we have witnessed in our boys hasn’t come from us holding a magnifying glass over their imperfections…they have changed and already let go of some of their previously learned behaviors by being shown mercy. It’s HIS unconditional love poured out onto the cracked, broken, beaten, weary places of a soul….that heals and restores.
What we are witnessing is what happens when Jesus dwells in our midst and we allow His mercy to triumph over judgement. Every time we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we see progress in our children, and in our own lives. When we take our eyes off this mercy, trying in our own flesh – we end up beating the air and not accomplishing much at all. Sometimes we even undo some of the progress we had previously made. But again, mercy waits upon us. Each day His mercy anew. He waits for us to look to His unfailing arms for strength.
IT IS OF THE LORD’S MERCIES THAT WE ARE NOT CONSUMED, BECAUSE HIS COMPASSIONS FIAL NOT. THEY ARE NEW EVERY MORNING: GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNES. Lamentations 3:22-23
I have to think this must be one of the messages Satan must hate most: that where judgement seems rightfully due, forgiveness and love covers a multitude of sin and mess. There are behaviors that broken children come with. Especially those abused and mistreated. They are often loud and don’t even realize how loud they are. Some may not even feel pain the way we do, and others are overly sensitive. They have endured trauma, have been degraded, belittled, made fun of, have starved for food, affection and healthy touch. Some adopted children gorge on food and eat so quickly they puke, many don’t have any idea how to care for their bodies, and have sensitivity to smells, touch and don’t have any comprehension of what germs are. We have no idea what it means to starve so much that you chew on things or even eat your own snot to fill yourself with something, anything. Some orphans are more well cared for, some worse. But the vision I see is of Jesus going right straight into all this brokeness. It’s His way. He touched the lepers that hadn’t felt touch in so very long, put his hands upon blind eyes, called out the demon possesed, and allowed the woman with the issue of blood to find her healing in touching Him.
FOR WE HAVE NOT AN HIGH PRIEST WHICH CANNOT BE TOUCHED WITH THE FEELING OF OUR INFIRMITIES; BUT WAS IN ALL POINTS TEMPTED LIKE AS WE ARE, YET WITHOUT SIN. Hebrews 4:14
In focussing on this mercy and love of Jesus I find I can let go of unrealalistic expectiations I place upon myself and others. I can love them just as they are…right now… amidst the mess. Just as Jesus has most certainly loved me. And when we give, when “we love because He first loved us,” something takes place that cannot be explained by any psychologist or therapy session.
Healing straight from the throne of heaven begins to rework brain waves or roads in the mind that were once tangled, never formed, or at a dead end. God’s mercy and love takes what was once damaged by abuse or trauma and new behaviours or roads begin to be paved. It doesn’t happen all at once. It takes constant repetition and hearts willing to stay in it for the LONG HAUL. But it’s so worth it. I’ll be honest, there are days I get weary of having a watchful eye required at all moments and requesting re-do’s with behaviors so new ones can begin to become foundations. But when I become weary and frustration begins to cast judgement, the remedy is sitting at the feet of Jesus who has a full cup of mercy for me.
Sometimes I try and envision my children all grown up. I wonder what they will be like and if they will have the opportunity to show this same mercy and love to the broken and hurting. I know it will take allot of fighting for them on their behalf, so much loving, and a mercy that shows up in full portion every day until then.
We are beginning to fall into a somewhat “normal” routine: trying to get plenty of exercise (if not we have some wild energy that surfaces), and set goals of eating, nap and schoolwork at regular, predictable times. We’ve had many recent doctor and dentist appointments, but try and fall back into routine when possible. It helps those who have experienced out of control circumstances to feel the security of predictable.
Hudson and Wesley will both sit with Elyana and write their letters, numbers and are learning new phrases and words each week. The rest of us are also learning allot of the common Mandarin phrases they use. Hudson’s hand motions usually help describe well what he would like to express and they both try and help us understand each other. It’s become MUCH easier in the past few weeks. We know God knew they would need each other. They are such a comfort to each other at night – especially for Hudson who deals with allot of fear in the dark. He sleeps well, but when he wakes up he doesn’t like to go out of the room without Wesley.
They are sleeping through the night, eating pretty regular food (though sometimes chicken in cheerios seems less than apetizing), and are learning manners. Today Hudson was telling Elyana to say “please” and “thank you.” I had to smile.
There have been so many moments for John and I…where we just look at each other in amazement of what God has done. We see bits more of victory and healing each day.
If you followed our journey in China you read about the fear that attacked after we met Hudson. The enemy was trying so hard to use the spirit of fear that was all over this little boy to keep us from breaking through with love. But we clung to truth…. and so many of you fought with us in prayer and we saw God do great and mighty things for His promises NEVER fail.
“THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE; BUT PERFECT LOVE CASTETH OUT FEAR: BECAUSE FEAR HATH TORMENT.” I John 4:18
I would say the word tormented would depict what this little boy has endured. He has survived so much. When we first met him he was so very, very broken and had severe sensory issues from neglect. God never looked away from our Hudson, and asked us to keep looking, keep believing in His vision for this boy He had knit together. As he has been with us he has begun to trust and will receive healthy touch even if he is giggling hysterically as I rub lotion on his feet (though last night I noticed he sat still more easily and didn’t giggle like crazy….progress!!). He no longer crouches as he walks like an abused animal and will now open up his arms around us, giving us a full body hug! He now puckers up his big lips to place them on John and my cheek each night and says….”I love you.” We are learning his triggers and insecurities while praying for continued healing. We know God can completely heal Hudson. He began to show a desire to tell his story to me one very emotional day last month. My heart began to beat as a few words came across my translator. I wanted to cry as it picked them up, but held it together. I texted our Mandarin teacher Lucy and she offered to come that day and help him tell his story to us. When she arrived his voice became quiet and unsure just like it was on the day we met him. We assured him he wasn’t in trouble and it was safe to talk to us. He began to tell bits and pieces of what he endured as Lucy took notes for me. He bravely told his story. We will protect him by not sharing all of his story but will tell you that nothing is impossible with God. He is turning a story of abuse into one of His secure and steadfast love. God will have the glory for Hudsons life!! It will be Hudson’s story to tell someday if he desires. I pray God makes him brave someday to do so if it’s His will, so that others can see what a great big healing God we serve!!
God will use what Hudson has endured, all the enemy intended for evil…and turn every bit of it into good for him.
TO GIVE UNTO THEM BEAUTY FOR ASHES, THE OILD OF JOY FOR MOURNING, THE GARMENT OF PRAISE FOR THE SPIRIT OF HEAVINESS; THAT THEY MIGHT BE CALLED TREES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, THE PLANTING OF THE LORD, THAT HE MIGHT BE GLORIFIED. Isaiah 61:3
Hudson is so creative, enjoys fixing and figuring things out, REALLY enjoys playing video games, Buz Lightyear, riding his scooter, spending time with Ryan, and begs every day to go outside!! He is teaching me some Chinese by repetition and is picking up English so well. He is doing very well with our picture flashcards and we are hearing more phrases daily. We are praying God continues to help Hudson see himself as He sees him…beloved, precious, valuable…treasured. Hudson is hard on himself when he makes mistakes and since other children have made fun of him/bullied him in the past he is more sensitive or easily embarrassed. He is learning that his brothers and sisters love him and with praise we can most often pull him out of a negative attitude. It’s so amazing to see him hug Elyana when she gets hurt or tell me “be careful Mama” when I’ve burnt myself in the kitchen. He is learning to care for others when no others had ever cared for him. He wasn’t concerned much for Elyana at first, and both of them butt heads initially. But they are getting along so well now. I think she was just another child around. But now when it’s time to play he makes sure Elyana is included and even saves her a few trains to play with. We have moments of such victory that I want to shout! It’s those moments I must cling to when we are doing our 10th “time in” for the day and tears are streaming down his cheeks. Even in the hard moments God is teaching us to use them to show His unconditional love for him….that no matter what behaviours surface, we will still love him. He is such a good boy with a sweet heart, smile that warms my insides, and an ornery side that makes us laugh and can annoy his siblings at times. He is tough in many ways, yet so vulnerable in others. He is learning how to eat slowly and how to stay clean. He is a champ at doctor appointments, shots and intense dentist appointments in stride. His teeth were extremely neglected from lack of chewing/eating and malnourishment, but they are shining now. He was so proud of them after his last 2 appointments. Where only scars and tense facial expressions once were, we see calm and healing taking over!! The curses are broken in our Father!
Wesley has also come so far and is putting down roots right smack dab right in the middle of all our hearts.
Each boy had to figure out their roll in our family and we had to each settle around one another. We realized quickly that Wesley is more sensitive and desired greatly to be understood. This was VERY complicated because of the language barrier, but God met us in those moments. Wesley kept trying to point at his pictures from the orphanage and would emphatically try tell us, in tears at times, about what was on his heart. The first time our Mandarin teacher came he wouldn’t speak even a word. He is more gaurded because he understood more about healthy attachments. But finally one day as he was sobbing, trying to talk to me, I used the translator app to tell him Lucy was a teacher and she would help us talk. He agreed. I’ll never forget that night. He opened up and I saw a load lift off his shoulders. God brought his healing right down into our little home. He told us about his foster family and the celebration they had for him when he was told “You are 5yrs old now and old enough to go to America!” He told us their names and that he had been looking for the phone number his foster Dad had placed in his pocket when we visited the orphanage. We were able to tell him that we saved the number for him, and that his foster sister who was adopted only a month before him lived just one state over from us with her family and we had contact with them. He was so excited about that and quickly asked to talk to her on the phone. We are hoping to orchestrate a video chat soon between them both.
We wondered how Wesley had learned to be so sweet with Elyana, but now since being in contact with his foster sisters parents, understand more. She has special needs also and Wesley’s heart is soft and compassionate to the needs of others. He is genuine and honest in what he says. He wants to do good and is very sensitive if he does wrong. Wesley uses humor to mask the hard he has been through. He is ALWAYS joking with us. He is a tease so fits in well as a male Sparks. Wesley loves to help in the kitchen, push buttons- flip switches (which at times can drive us mad), play video games, enjoys being outside, taking care of Cabby (who he once shook and cried in fear over), will sit and do puzzles, enjoys dressing up in his super hero costume, playing trains with his siblings, and enjoys most being involved in whatever we are doing. He is my helper when groceries need carried in the house, loves to be with others, and will find me to just see what I am doing and tell me he loves me. He has bonded well with all of us and begs for Ryan to take him on go-kart rides. He will take a nap on most days and loves eating corn on the cob!! That and popcorn are his favorite foods right now. He is loving and affectionate, warming all our hearts with his smile and silly expressions.
Since that day Wesley was able to open up we saw something settle in his heart. He felt understood and this understanding placed a new wall of security and trust around us. He is learning what a forever family is and God is healing the sorrow he felt leaving his friends and foster parents (who would’ve never been able to keep him). They were paid by the Chinese government to live within the orphanage and care for a group of children. Wesley cannot understand these things, nor should he. He is protected from the harsh realities and we allow him to feel good about his view of where he came from and where he is now. Understanding will come later, and we will love him through those moments as well.
So many of you prayed for Elyana as she adjusted to having a WHOLE LOT of new activity in her life. The first month was rough. Very rough. But I’ve seen her settle as her genuine silly self came back. We have challenging days that seem to be fewer now, but still require a whole lot of understanding on my part. I have to remember sometimes she has been with us only 2 years, when it seems like we’ve known her all her life. She is such a joy and now says “I’m so glad we are all finally together now and our boys are home!” We had some big medical appointments in Cincinnati over the last few weeks for urology. And we got excellent news: her kidneys are no longer refluxing and she is able to be off her daily antibiotics! The appointment she used to scream through she didn’t even shed one tear through this time!! Thank you Jesus!! Over the past few years we have gained wisdom on how to better communicate with medical professionals about what we desire during testing and now that she is older she is able to take directions and understand what will be expected of her ahead of time. We are rejoicing in how far God has brought our sweet girl. I remember her screams of fear in the night and fits of tears in that first year. Her strong will is a gift and also a challenge at times, but we know God has given her this determination to not allow her special needs to hold her back in any way. She is so smart and is already doing site word flash cards and we are planning to have her go to preschool next fall. She has such a bright sociable personality and we know she will bring sunshine wherever she goes! God has taught us so much through her little life and has blessed our hearts in ways we cannot even put into words. The things she says are honest and has us smiling around the dinner table.
Ryan and Jenna have been also been amazing through it all. I believe God poured His compassion and love straight into their hearts. Ryan is so patient in teaching the boys new things and Jenna is always helping them and doing kind things for them. Every night Ryan hugs each of his siblings goodnight and is always talking about the progress they have made. The boys love hearing Jenna play her violin and she patiently allows them to touch it and isn’t afraid to be silly with them. We each have our moments we desire quiet, but it’s right smack dab in all the loud that we’ve seen God make dark eyes begin to shine with the hope of His love!!
The pictures above were taken during Chinese New Year. It meant allot to the boys that we celebrated. They taught us how to say Happy New Year in Chinese, we made paper lanterns, and Hudson made a beautiful Chinese fan for our door. They are learning from us, and we from them. God is so amazing.
There is SO MUCH more I could share. So many things we love about them. We thank God daily for the moments He has gifted us and the fulfillment of His promises to us.
I apologize for a long update, and will try to not allow so much time to pass between future updates. I hope you have received a glimpse of what we are seeing unfold here. God’s healing is so real….His mercy so life changing.
“THY MERCY, O LORD, IS IN THE HEAVENS; AND THY FAITHFULNESS REACHETH UNTO THE CLOUDS” Ps 36:5
He (Jesus) said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I WILL HAVE MERCY, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Matt 9:12-13
“HIS MERCY IS NEW EVERY DAY…GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS”