David left, very early morning, with Quinn, for three days away at school camp. It will be a wonderful time for them both. But there were tears. As I told Quinn, it’s good that you cry, that you will miss me, because it means our hearts are connected and we love each other well.
I was up at 5:30 am and knew this would be my first day to need to wake Qiao Qiao in time for bringing Naomi to school at 7:30. An arduous task!! By 6:15 I had turned all of her lights on – so cruel. She immediately burrowed under the covers to find darkness. But I needed her to say goodby to Daddy and Quinn, to understand that they did not just disappear, that they are coming back. And by the time they leave, she is up. Grinning quietly and rubbing her sleepy eyes. Zie jien! We tell them. See you soon.
Now we eat a quiet breakfast, just us three girls, and bundle up, and out into the rain where Qiao Qiao shivers all over as she walks to the car and clearly says, “cold!” Naomi is dropped off and Qiao and I walk to the nearby prayer house where I introduce her to this amazing environment. Called the Alabaster House – it is a place of peace and the Presence of God where anyone can come and simply sit, listen to worship music, read, journal, draw, dance or worship in any other way you’d like. It has been a place of so many beautiful experiences with God for me and many others. I knew in my heart today was the day to introduce Ava to this wonderful spot. Together, we walked in and picked out some flags and began waving them together, dancing around and filling the room with joy. She bubbled up with laughter, and those inside were so understanding. It is a quiet zone – but everyone loves laughter! In this environment, I saw her relax and refresh and I heard from God, whispers from Holy Spirit about grace. How I am covered, wrapped in a blanket of grace, and how from redemption, everything good grows. I cried as I walked with my flags, Qiao walking behind me. So many times I came to this place and prayed for this child – before I even knew she existed. Now she is here with me at last. It was an incredible feeling.
We headed to a friends house for tea and conversation. We have stuck pretty close to home since we’ve been back in the States, but somehow I knew today Ava was ready for more. And even more I knew that I needed to connect. We had a quiet time, looking at books, drawing, talking; but again somehow it was just right. An opportunity to be under His covering in the home of a friend.
Now to Trader Joe’s for a few essentials – Qiao Qiao’s first time to the grocery store with me! I remembered as I walked in, the little carts, and Qiao Qiao was overjoyed when she saw them. We had just enough food to fill our cart as we walked around together, picking out fruits and veggies. This girl loves both, just like her sister. We picked out daffodils too – because I could not resist! No time like the present to teach this little girl to honor her heart and to love beauty. 🙂
At the cash register they gave out STICKERS!! Oh my! And a lollipop for finding the bear – which Qiao Qiao did discover – all on her own! Well, let me just say it was pretty much the best thing ever for Qiao Qiao. Wait, have I said that before? I think she loves a lot of things in her new life. 🙂
We came home to mom and Qiao time – Candy Land at the dining room table, a lunch of cheese, meat, and fruits, some math games, reading, and a quiet time. Today she finally reached that point of feeling a bit bored in the house. It is raining outside so the trampoline, her favorite, is not an option. She wanted so badly to jump and kept going out front to check if the rain was still there. For all these days every single thing around her has been a revelation. It is hard to imagine how different this life is from the one she has known. But I am glad she is getting bored. From there she will begin to reach upward towards the light of new creativity and exploration. I only wish I had the words to tell her so.
At school pick up time we drive to get Naomi, Qiao Qiao calling from the backseat all the way in Mandarin: “hurry up Mom, drive faster, drive faster!” She also wants me to beep beep all the time. I vroom the engine when it is safe to do so, winning big grins in the rear view mirror.
She is overjoyed to see her sister and as soon as we pull into the pick up line she rolls down her window and begins screaming to Naomi (who is not yet within sight or hearing!) “JieJie (big sister) hurry up, hurry up! Run fast, run to the car! We are here! Run fast! Hurry up!” This girl is so full of passion and an activator just like her mom – always ready for the next thing, for change, for action.
Together we head home and eat snacks and play a few games. Qiao Qiao discovers her chalk wall and I pull out the chalk and she immediately writes her new name, Ava, big across the middle. From the moment she writes that name, it is Ava, Ava, Ava. Yesterday, Anita, my Chinese friend was here and explained that she has an American name as well as a Chinese name (Hint: Anita is not the Chinese name! 🙂 ) She told Qiao Qiao both names and explained that Qiao still has her Chinese name but if she would like to she can also use her American name, Ava. This was the first time anyone has clearly explained the name situation to her. She was simply not ready till now to hear from a translator, and we have not had the words for her. I We have called her Qiao Qiao constantly. We have written Ava on her paperwork and given that name to some teachers and doctors, but otherwise it has been nonexistent. We were perfectly content to live with Qiao Qiao for ever. But I feel Ava will be an easier name for her here – and it is one we love so much. Anita’s explanation was a stroke of genius and one I am so grateful for. Ava discovers my necklace “by coincidence” a few minutes later – the one I constantly wear around my neck with their three names on it: Naomi, Quinn and Ava. It’s like her heart just gets poured full when she sees the names, and hers there. She reads with me: “Naomi, jie jie, Quinn, gugu, Ava, wo (me!) I am full of wonder at how the name thing is working out – an organic, spontaneous choice for change on the part of one very courageous little girl.
A sweet friend and her girls bring dinner and play. They bring a gift for Qiao too. She is overjoyed by what she finds inside and adds the gift bag to her little collection in the armoire – she so dearly loves the gift bags! We play with the new craft she is given and then eat dinner as we watch a girls movie together. But Qiao Qiao does not watch for long. She is ready to jump, and learn, and grow, and play and hold Mama’s face in her hands and kiss me for the first time, and be held like a baby and just generally bond like crazy. It’s a good feeling, a happy feeling. Her joy is contagious. She finds someone texting on my phone and texts back: Ava. Soon dozens of messages have been sent back and forth – it is like a whole new world for her. She learns to send emoji’s and photos, how to write the words I love you and more. My heart delights to see her exploration, and to watch her reach out in friendship, even across a text.
At bedtime she variates from the usual book routine, a sign to me of some great shift. Something happened today. She has settled more deeply, felt more safe, been ready to open up farther. We snuggle in close, she and I. And we’re at rest. The magic continues – the best is yet to come.