Growing with Grace 4 months on

Growth is really the best word to describe these past four months with our Grace Qiao.  I decided to make a Top 10 list of all the growing she and we have done.

10. Pants.  Grace has grown from perfectly fitting a size 4 slim fit jean, to needing a size 5 (with the occasional flash of an ankle).  Size 6’s aren’t too far away now. 

9. Bellybuttons.  Not the actual thing, although I am sure it is growing too!  Her shirts are shrinking and we are seeing more and more navel everytime she is dancing and playing.  Again, she is now moving into a size 6 shirt regularly now.

8. Dance.  Grace has always loved to dance.  That is the one thing each and every adult from her life in China has told us emphatically.  She has a knack for quickly picking up moves and memorizing long sections of choreography.  The thing we are noticing is how she is not only dancing with bravado like she has all along, but she is also gaining more poise as time goes on.

7.  Poise.  That’s a funny word for a slight 7 year old, but she is learning more and more each day about what it means to be a young lady.  She is morphing from a little girl into a feminine princess at times – such a gift to see.

6. Princess.  A neighbour girl gave Grace Qiao an outgrown princess dress.  It has been much loved and is a bit well worn, but when my little girl took that dress in her hands she hugged it and ran to her room to change into it.  ONe thing we know about her childhood thus far is that she was very highly praised for her intelligence and her competitive nature.  While we are proud of her achievements, we are delighted to see her embracing her girlhood too.  It is a true treasure to watch her twirl and swirl in her gown.  She’s even had the blessing of being invited to a tea party this week.  Her little friend from church asked all the girls to dress in their best.  We used mini elastic bands and gave her a fancy do.  She wore her Cinderella glass slippers and her blue gown and looked every bit the princess.  I couldn’t help but get a little choked up watching her.

5. Friends.  Grace is learning to be a friend.  She has been given lots of opportunities to practice this since coming home.  But didn’t she grow up with dozens of little girls – doesn’t she already know how?  Well, yes and no.  She had sisters.  She had people to watch over her.  We don’t think she had many people to speak into her relationships though.  Her daily interactions with the other girls were not mentored ones.  Let’s leave it at that for now.  Happily, she is making friends at church and with the other girls in our neighbourhood.

4. Mentors.  Grace is learning what it means to have people who love her dearly, also speak into life with wisdom and kindness.  It has been tough for her to hear criticisms (healthy ones) and to have someone do it with kindness has been even harder.  In many ways, because she was always at the top of all she has attempted, it has been harder for her.  Her self-esteem came home *fully* intact.  The first challenge has been drawing her into relationship.  The second has been challenging he strength of the relationship by speaking truths to her.  The third phase has been all about helping her accept it and now we are into the fourth stage – growng from it. 

3.  Acceptance.  Grace came to us with a shy smile and an open face, but I wouldn’t say she was accepting of us.  She tells us now that she wasn’t afraid of us (and according to a comment she made today, apparently we didn’t smell bad!  LOL), which is good to know.  But, as we soon found out, although she had been very well informed about us, it would take some time before she would accept us as becoming one with her.  She had it very good in China (yes, she was very blessed in many ways, for which we are truly thankful) and there were many who cared deeply for her.  Unfortunately, at 7 she was unable to look ahead and see that the things that were good in her life would not be able to be there for her forever.  In the past few days, her comments regarding visiting Zhongshan have become different.  Now she tells me just where each of us would sleep if we could go there to visit the orphanage.  Now, suddenly, we are all going with her on her much planned visit to Zhongshan.  I think that says so much about where her acceptance of her family is at.  It is more than crayon drawings of her family or claiming us in a crowd.  Zhongshan is her heart home.  And we have been invited.

2. Visit.  Wow that is a bit of a jump to number two, but hopefully you’ll see the connection.  A visit to Zhongshan.  We hope and pray that we will get to return to both Yinchuan and Zhongshan with the kids in the next couple of years.  With that is mind, we haev a very real goal of continuing our Chinese language learning.  In Grace’s case, we see such a neat blance happening for her still.  She is growing in her knowledge of English.  She loves to pick up new vocabulary (her English word box is her favourite part of our homeschool day) and is flying through her Explode the Code books.  We have begun using honics Pathways to begin early reading instruction too.  It’s really wild to see how much she has picked up.  On the flip side, she has seemed to hang on to her Mandarin and Cantonese for so much longer than I expected.  She sings and chats away in Mandarin to all of us, but flips to English for most of her day now.  When she is really excited she will speak a definite mix now.  With that in mind, she (as well as James and Faith) have started a new batch of Mandarin lessons with our dear friend and Mandarin teacher, Anna.  Hopefully she can hang onto enough to be able to visit with her friends once we visit.  Hopefully this will fill her heart in a way that only truly speaking your heart can do.

1. Heart.  We are seeing it. Her heart is opening.  She came to us so very confident and yet so deeply scared.  She is quicker to forgive now.  Quicker to reach out to someone (albeit somtimes that someone is one of the family cats) when they are sad or upset.  She has continued to be a really generous “sharer” and yet now, we see it coming from the heart more often.  She is learning to pray now.  Learning who HE is.  HE made you Grace, did you know? HE is invisible now, Gracie, but did you know HE came here to earth? Did youknow HE loves you? That HE was always with you, little girl? That you are truly HIS princess? That is the growth that we long to see.

Four months on and so much growth.