It has been a week since I arrived back in the States from China. This was the third time I saw my biological family. This was the first time I traveled alone to see my family. A full 24 hours of traveling to arrive at the village. The duration is long yet every time it is mindblowing to comprehend I can travel across the world (6,500 miles) in 24 hours. Three Car rides, two airplanes, one metro ride, and one high-speed train ride.
This was the longest duration of time I spent under the same roof as my family. Thirteen days with them to be exact. This was the first time I had my own room and bathroom (my ma and ba built this room for me after we reunited). This experience was the first time I was not greeted with large family/friend parties. This was the first time my parents did not take me shopping for expensive jewelry. This was the first time I was not expecting celebrations centered around me. I liked that… A lot. Why? Because I felt like it was less of a reminder that for the past 20+ years there was a separation. Also, this meant I had more quality time with them. I did not feel like I was interrupting their lives, but instead I was contributing and helping. This time I did not feel like they were as eager to “please me”. They didn’t make me sit at the head of the table and they did not serve me food. Instead, my ma allowed me to help her cook, set the table, wash my clothes in the river, and clean the house… To an extent. She even scolded me when I did not clean the “proper way”. (>-<)
They continued their lives with work during the week, my sister working at the factory building, my brother working from home for six days before he departed and returned to the city. I felt very proud to know how to help my ma more, and I felt so humbled to finally have the opportunity to help my ba and ma at the construction site. Four stories high above the ground, my ba and I worked together. Many hours I had so much joy helping by lifting buckets of cement, mixing cement with a shovel, carrying bricks, and shoveling cement. Most days from sunrise to sunset they work. My ma cooks for the workers and helps make my ba’s job easier. She does not get paid, but I have never seen her complain.
Each time I return to China, God shows me something new, He provides me new challenges, He puts me in situations to allow me to keep my eyes on Him, He allows me to have more amazing memories with my family, and He shares a few additional sentences to add to the first few chapters of my story.
Each time I return to China, God shows me something new, He provides me new challenges, He puts me in situations to allow me to keep my eyes on Him, He allows me to have more amazing memories with my family, and He shares a few additional sentences to add to the first few chapters of my story. Each time I am reminded of the promise I shared with God and how He revealed His plans. During Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 I prayed God would allow me to do His will and accept His plans. I prayed His plans to become my plans. I promised God I would share the Gospel with them. I prayed that He give me the courage and heart to share. Earlier that year my church was preaching on Exodus and this stayed close to my heart. Within months God took me on an unbelievable journey when I know it could only be Him and His works. He is so Good.
Since the first reunion, I had the opportunity to continue to develop a relationship with them, to share my testimony with my family, and to share the Good News through a letter. I revealed to them I am a Christian. Praying, trusting, and remembering His goodness in the midst of fear of rejection and disappointing my parents. The second reunion, I continued to lean on Jesus as both fear and excitement collided when asking my parents if I can visit a Christian church. Again, God revealed Himself by revealing His plans were greater than mine. I had envisioned a government-regulated church in the city that I had driven past multiple times before. Instead, my parents took me to an unregistered Christian church in a nearby village. Each time spiritual warfare arose, God showed himself again and again. When my ba’s car had engine problems the day we planned to visit the church, God made a way. When my ba and ma could not find the church, God paved a path. When there seemed to be no one around when we arrived at the church, the pastor and His family appeared, greeted, and welcomed us. When I was not able to communicate well, God allowed me to meet a young woman who spoke some English and exchanged communication through Wechat. She became a dear friend.
This last time (around ten days ago) I prayed so much for my friend. When I arrived in China, my friend revealed to me her husband/pastor was recently arrested. Additionally, her uncle was arrested too. She and her children were under 24/7 police surveillance and unable to leave home. My heart was deeply saddened and worried. I prayed much for this family in Christ. Only miles away she was experiencing this. The persecution that I have read in articles and watched on news was happening within miles away from me… to my own friend. I feared for my friend, I feared for this countries future, and at a moment I even feared for myself. Though with prayer I found comfort, a reminder of how much Greater our God is. All I wanted to do was visit my friend, pray over her, and help my sister in Christ. A week past… praying but God was speaking through a brother in the local church…telling me it wasn’t the right time. I was praying and starting to accept the fact that I may not see her… But I worried about how can I share with my family this time. I started to feel like I didn’t pray hard enough. It was a definite battle within myself and at times emotionally exhausting. I felt moments of feeling alone as a Christian and I felt that so much more for the Christians here in China. Then on 9 of January, an answered prayer. My friend had been recently able to leave her home and she came to visit me. It gave me chills and yet such a beautiful sight to see my ma welcoming my Christian friend into her home. An opportunity to have a Christ-centered conversation in my parent’s home. An opportunity to pray for my friend in my parent’s home. It was such a beautiful moment. With humbleness and God willing, I asked my ma if I can go to church with my friend. I still find an internal tension within myself and worrying for my mom loving me less…being a disappointment… the fear of burning rejection. Anxiousness was building up as I was looking for the “right time” to ask my ma. By God’s grace, she said yes with a smile and without any apparent hesitation. She even insisted she take me at 6:30-7AM in the morning. Even after my friend offered, she was insistent on taking me.
I was so happy and thankful to my Ma. Spiritual warfare was present as I wrestled with my own thoughts, with my sister nagging at me to not go because our ma was tired and now she has to wake up early. I would feel moments of guilt but then a quick reminder that this is worth it…to Hear His Word. Sunday came and my ma and I left for the next village. I entered the church, but it was clear my ma felt uncomfortable and did not wish to enter. I thought maybe she can hear His word from outside, the door was cracked and there were a few hundred people inside. I am sure she could hear. I did not want to force her into entering and only wished to give her a planted seed and positive experience. Unfortunately, she soon took off on the electric scooter after a few women tried to strongly persuade her to enter the church and join them. I was deeply saddened with other conflicted feelings in watching all this from inside the church window. Should I have intervened? Should I have stopped the women? Should I have defended my ma? Was it right to leave my ma let my ma feel uncomfortable in this situation? There were many unsettling feelings. Though quickly I left those feelings and prayed she could still hear the songs from wherever she went.
The emphasis in not necessarily what God can do for them but centered around his unchanging qualities and character.
I loved the church service even if I did not understand. I loved watching the people worshipping God. Being apart of this community, It was evident that God was truly at the center of their worship. The beauty and the difference that I saw in their prayers and in their songs was the emphasis in not necessarily what God can do for them but centered around His unchanging qualities and character. They worshipped and praised God for who He is and not so much around their problems. They could easily be asking God “Why..?” They could be easily begging God to free them from persecution…but they didn’t. Instead, they were praising Him, they hold on to His word, His promises, declaring His love and grace…they had peace. I just wanted to meet each person and know each persons’ testimony. People of all generations were in this small building. Experiencing this, challenges me as a believer. How often does Western Christianity portray God that is centered around “What He can and did for us”. Don’t get me wrong, it is true how much God has done, can do, and will do…but what if my faith (and the Western Christianity) becomes more about learning who God is…worshipping Him not only based on the present situations but for His character and qualities.
I feel I have portrayed a fantasy between my family and me far before I reconnected and has continually shaped since we reconnected and reunited. I have wanted to record and capture all the beautiful moments, record all the praises and thankfulness, and be able to brag about God, who He is, and what He has done.
BUT IN ALL HONESTY, IT HASN’T BEEN ALL “HAPPY-HAPPY” TIMES.
But in all honesty, it hasn’t been all “happy-happy” times. I want to be raw and honest in this blog post and say that every time I go to China, I come home emotionally all over the place. I come home with no one to truly understand how I feel, and yet I can’t even comprehend all my thought. I can’t expect or blame anyone either…it just is. This last time I went back was most challenging in some aspects. It was the first time I broke down crying in my room alone, moments of questioning my future relationship with my family, and the first time seeing my older sister as if she were me still in China. Like I said, this time was the closest I felt with my family. This trip back home also revealed to me that in my mind I had developed these perfect standards, high expectations, and was blinded to the fact that like all families, my family was dysfunctional too. I really wrestled with this new “brokeness” I had denied for so long. This time I saw and admitted my parents scolding my sister often. I saw the bickering between my parents and sister. I saw the misunderstandings between my parents and my sister. I saw my brother as “the perfect child”, never doing or saying anything wrong and never being scolded. But, from our conversations I knew he felt a weighing pressure of society and our family to find a stable job, get married, financially help the family, and take on the role of taking care of our parents and sister. I saw my ma and ba have a few small arguments. I experienced my ma scolding me a few times too much than expected. I experienced my ma becoming frustrated with me and short-tempered. None of the above was I expecting and none of the above felt good. In fact, it felt awful. I felt moments like I was a disappointment to them, I felt moments of grief for my sister, I felt moments of deep sadness, and I felt moments of just wanting to leave and hide. As much as I was trying to understand my family, more so my ma, there were moments I felt hurt in feeling they were not very understanding to me. I was able to grasp the concepts that some of their responses were due to cultural norms, some responses were due to the fact they were my parents and I was not used to them scolding me as parents do, some responses I noticed were due to lack of communication, some responses were due to their own personal struggles of pain and regret, and other responses were just because that was who they are. My frustration was I could not figure out which was which. I still can’t figure it out.
When my parents told me my shirt was ugly and that is why I do not have a boyfriend, I laughed and still laugh. For me, that shows they care, that is a culturally typical Asian parent response, and I just laugh and shrug it off. When my ma tells me to not stay outside too long because I will become darker, I am not offended because again that is a typical Asian parent comment. When my older sister scolds me for not eating every grain of rice from my bowl, I feel embarrassed because she is correct…never waste a grain of rice. (creative art by Joy Li, to simply describe good vs bad manners)
When my ma scolds me for spilling tofu in our 5-6 hour tofu making processes, I feel terrible and know I made a mistake. That’s easy for me to understand and eventually I move on. When my ma fixes my pant legs because they are not covering my ankles, well that’s a mom thing…and I can imagine she sees me still as her young daughter that needs her mom…making up for lost time…and I love that.
The struggle for me is seeing my ma get short-tempered when I am cleaning and it isn’t the right way…or when I am cleaning and I am not cleaning quick enough… or when I am cleaning and I do the wrong thing because I can not understand her directions…because for me feelings of feeling not good enough, not needed …rose to the surface.
The struggle for me is seeing my ma get short-tempered and scolding me for not hearing her call my name…2…3…4…5 times. The struggle for me is hiding my ears and wearing a hat…not being allowed to have my hair pulled back… unlike my sister. I understand the reasoning but I feel moments it breaks down the years of confidence I had to build.
The struggle for me is recognizing that every scolding, short-tempered act, and the hurtful remark is not meant to hurt me, but it is because she is becoming comfortable with me, she is trying to raise me how she would have, she has years of brokenness and healing too, she is imperfect like any other mom, and because she worries.
The struggle for me is to remember they love me, they care about me, they will not abandon me, they will not regret reuniting with me… during the moments of scolding…
Every time I return it’s like new developmental milestones are being created…
Every time I return it’s like new developmental milestones are being created… as if I was a toddler and now growing to a late childhood stage. Milestones and bonding dynamics that could have happened 20+ years ago are happening now. The first time I reunited: my ma would jokingly feed me, she would wash my clothes, serve me food, never let me help with anything, examine me from head to toes, wash my feet, and hold my hand when crossing the street. My parents showed me off to all the family and friends. The second time I reunited: I slept with my ma, she would still do my laundry, still cook for me, not let me help her clean, started to let me help her cook, still hold my hand across busy streets, not allowing me to take walks alone, and scolding me a few times in gentle ways. The third time I reunited: I was allowed to help clean, help cook, help at my Ba’s worksite, allowing me to run independently around the village (but my ma still searching for me on the electric scooter to tell me its time for breakfast) (^-^), scolding me more often when I forgot to drink hot water or cleaned incorrect, having my own room, teaching me to cook more, my ma giving me snacks from her purse on outings, first time feeling a natural mother-daughter typical “embarrassing moment” when my friend comes over and my ma is fixing my pant legs (LOL), and my parents telling me more often to find a boyfriend.
But I am reminded…during the cold winter nights, when my ma holds me…sleeps up against me, her arm around me…where no communication or words are needed…to know she loves me. Every time I come back home, I like to imagine that she is still there, her arms around me…as if I was a young child. I only dreamed of that as a child…and in those moments, I have been reminded of the complexity of the past, the complexity of Love that doesn’t always make sense, and the complexity of adoption.
I have been reminded of the complexity of the past, the complexity of Love that doesn’t always make sense, and the complexity of adoption.
To my Ma, Ba, Jiejie, Didi, Wo Ai Ni Men.