Do you know when my heart broke wide-open again?
It was when I saw you sitting in your Baba’s lap, in the bookstore, in your glorious big pink sparkly plush-lined coat with your dainty Chinese shoes on. You were laughing and pointing and I could hear your voice before I even got into the children’s section. You were listening to the words in English and you were telling a story of your own in Mandarin. And you were so simply brave and beautiful and perfect, that you made my heart ache.
You broke my heart again when we sat in church for only your second time (your first time you slept through, still jet lagged) and you asked if we could go up on stage and use the microphone, you and me both, you said. Let’s do it together, you said. And it was your eyes, your eager body, your whole spirit yearning for glory, yearning to show off the glory that you were created with. It’s as if nobody told you that you were supposed to be a shy and quiet orphan girl just come from China with no English skills and way behind in school. And because nobody bothered to tell you all that, you simply didn’t bother believing it. Instead you are you. And there is NOBODY who compares to you, precious girl.
My heart aches each time you ask me to pick you up, clinging to my shoulders, your whole face begging . . . . carry me. You say “yee, uhr, sahn” (1,2,3,) and you jump into my arms, and you let me carry you the American way, on my hip, and you wrap your arms so tight around me. You become all smile, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. You love being in my arms. I am so curious to see that you will not let me pick you up when you are out – somewhere you know that this is not the behavior of a nine year old. Yet at home, with me, you are unafraid to be a child, to be the baby in my arms, to experience this mothering thing at it’s very best. Thank you.
I hold your hands and you roller skate on too-small and wobbly skates through our hallway and I flap your wings and I say “fly!” and you begin to say it too. You, my Ava-bird, were meant to soar. And in this new country, this new home, this new world of yours, I watch you tasting freedom . . . . and you say that it is GOOD. Your freedom makes my heart leap. It also makes me a little afraid. Something in me says “be careful, if you let her be too free now, maybe she’ll become too much for you later.” And to that I laugh. She can not be too much – she is just enough for the life she was made to live. And so I hold your hand and I choose to soar with you, to teach you how to back the car out of the driveway, in my lap. I watch you crazy-text my friends with emoji’s and pictures and “Ava” written over and over in the text line – the only real English you know how to type. I am so proud of your bravery, my girl.
You have taken this world in stride. You have learned that we have MANY friends, and that they are safe ones. That a simple “hi” works well and that the lovely people who come to our door so often bring a gift. Now you run to answer it. You practice with me, saying “Come INE!” as you ring the doorbell loudly to such rauccous laughter. Play acting, you command the cats, in clever Mandarin, to answer when we knock.
You are learning, dear one. That it is lovely to receive a compliment and that you must not loudly brush it off as “nothing, nothing, nothing, finished!” But that you can say “thank you” and smile. I hope I will teach you to be revel in your glory, to take grace as a gift, to see Baba God’s smile of wonder each time someone smiles at you. You are a sign and a wonder, little girl. When we celebrate you, this great big community, we celebrate love. We celebrate grace. We celebrate that dreams do come true and miracles still happen. We celebrate that beauty can come from brokennes and that the best things in life really are worth waiting for.
This morning you took twenty-eight pictures of me, on your bed, with your disposable camera. Someday I will tell you how I had no words to explain to you that it only had twenty eight pictures, or how it differed from the digital ones. But I will tell you about how we looked under your bed for a cat, and instead we saw a wrapped gift there. And I remembered that someone gave it before we left for China, and somehow it had gotten dropped under there. But you, you looked into my eyes, and I only needed to speak your spirit-language to understand that you knew that this was the pure magic, the beautiful magic your new life is made of, this showing-up-of-gifts-under-the-bed. And all evening, after you found it, you kept telling me the story through words and sounds and gestures and you kept laughing in wonder. And I knew that God was kissing you and my eyes filled with tears and I brushed them away and I hugged you tight.
Oh the stories we will share forever, my precious girl. My brave, beautiful, soaring, full-of-life Ava-bird.
I love you to China and back . . . forever and always.