“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.”- Ancient Chinese Proverb
We have lived in this little town for twelve years.
We have been home with our five-year-old girls for six months.
Already, they know more people than we do.
Josie has devised an extremely effective greeting strategy. First, she waves. Receiving a wave in return, she will either move on or begin a conversation in a jumble of quick Chinese and English jargon. However, if her first wave does not elicit a response, she waves even more enthusiastically and shouts a greeting. If, in the rare case she is still ignored or unseen, she mercilessly pursues eye-contact, nodding and bobbing, all while waving and shouting. She is not above banging on a car window, running, tugging, and occasionally tackling and dragging others, especially those she knows well, just simply to say, “Hello,” with a smile.
I watch our girls in admiration. I witness it everywhere we go. They tenaciously weave love, hope, and joy into the world. They do it when they ride the bus, attend school, cheer at a football game, participate in a dance class, go to a doctor appointment, or simply leave the house and smile at a passer-by. They weave it over the lines and boundaries, blurring the edges where our family ends and where others begin, until we see that we are part of a beautiful tapestry, woven tightly together. We are interconnected; each one a thread.
Grace and Josie’s thread began in China when two sets of parents gave life to their daughters with Down syndrome. Under circumstances, which could only have been grievous and tragic, each family held their baby girl for one month, then wrapped her in blankets and abandoned her on the side of a road. Grace and Josie’s parents were forced to make the most excruciatingly painful decision most of us could ever imagine. The beginning of their story, upon first impression, came to an abrupt end. The thread appeared to sever, but in reality, it was only a tangle, and it stretched and wove into more lives for five years, until it connected to our family.
I will never forget the moment we met our daughters. Our world shifted and veered off course the moment Josie knocked on our hotel room door, looked in my eyes, and said, “Ni Hao!” Then again, when Grace stumbled and slipped to my side on the wet tile floor of the Chinese government building one week later. I had no category to imagine our family with our new daughters. My mind and heart were spinning and grasping. I was panicked, afraid of giving up the life I knew and loved. But I knew what I was walking into before I went and I went anyway because there is something far greater than my individual plans and fears. I believe in the Great Artisan who promises to weave us together through circumstances of both pain and pleasure and in families, both bought and borne, to create a gorgeous tapestry. We are but thread in His greater and larger work of art (Romans 8:28, Matthew 16: 24-25). Therefore, I signed the papers and made Grace and Josie my beloved daughters because I believe my greatest hope and my greatest joy is not found by seeking my individual good. I believe it is found together, even when it is uncomfortable, complicated, and messy.
So intricately are the threads of desperation, adversity, and affliction woven into the lives of our daughters, that they can never, and should never be separated for it is part of their identity. It hasn’t been perfection. It has been an illogical mix of mountaintop triumphs and devastating failures, contentment, fulfillment, and the heavy weight of stress. But we are all in this together. When we embrace this thought, we see that if one suffers, we all suffer, and if one rejoices, we all rejoice. We find joy together.
Grace and Josie are becoming confident little girls. They are slowly learning that our love is permanent. It was a joyful moment; when Grace instinctively called out, “Daddy!” because she was scared, when Josie pushed her plate of food away because she was full and she trusted we would feed her the next meal, when we heard them speak their first English words, when they learned they could express their needs and desires, when they began to play creatively, and when they said, “I love you,” the first time.
But, it is an ebb and flow. My friends, believe me, scrubbing poop from my carpet and out of my child’s hair does not make me skip and sing in the morning. Urine soaked beds, days and weeks of cleaning puke, waking throughout the night, and comforting children who are grieving and dealing with complex trauma issues does not flip my skirt. Parenting Grace and Josie ruined my idea of happiness and replaced it with a deeper depth of perseverance and joy. It is far greater than the cheap ideas of ease and relaxation I occasionally, and sometimes regularly long for.
In his book, Bound Together, Chris Brauns says, “Joy in the Christian life does not refer to glib happiness. Rather, joy speaks to a deep and abiding pleasure in Christ that withstands the vicissitudes of life and that will one day give way to eternal joy in God’s presence (Rev. 21:3-5).”
We need each other because we are interwoven into the whole, the entirety of humanity. By our actions, we shape and color one another’s lives. We have the stunning privilege and ability to weave love, hope, and joy in the lives of others as Christ Himself first wove love, hope, and joy in us (Hebrews 10:24, 1 John 4:19).
Dostoyevsky said, in The Brothers Karamazov, ”For everyone strives to keep his individuality as apart as possible, wishes to secure the greatest possible fullness of life for himself; but meantime all his efforts result not in attaining fullness of life but self-destruction, for instead of self-realization he ends by arriving at complete solitude.”
Let us weave our threads over all the boundaries and lines until they are blurred, until we forget they exist; the boundaries of countries, race, disabilities, gender, denomination, history, social status, and age.
Let us, in whatever situation we face, in whatever capacity we are able, continually give up our dreams of perfection.
Let’s welcome brokenness.
Let’s wave at each other.
Let’s make eye contact.
Let’s bang on car windows.
Heck, let’s tackle and drag one another if it comes to it.
Let’s tenaciously weave this love, hope, and joy everywhere we go and in everything we do.
Though it looks chaotic in this moment, the final product will not appear unorganized and unplanned when it is accomplished. It will shine with intricacy, complexity, and beauty. We will find the best life, the fullest, most hope and joy-filled life together.
We are interwoven; each one a thread.
Erin and her husband returned home from China in March with their two daughters, Grace and Josie. She shared previously on NHBO here.
Erin writes about her life, her faith, and her interests at Excuse Our Mess. She has a passion to share the truth about her life and the beauty amidst the mess.