Thursday, May 7, 2020

Patchwork Quilt

People like to compare life to a puzzle, and I think there’s a lot of truth and metaphors within that phrase. However, I like to think of my life as a patchwork quilt. 

No one thing, culture, set of people, or lifestyle has defined me. I’m a unique mix of all these things; all these elements have made me into the intricate and frankly, complicated, person I am. 

I think there’s a beauty to patchwork quilts. A lot of times it’s random colors and cubes that you wouldn’t put together, but somehow it works. Back in the day, quilting groups would bring swatches of cloth that meant something, or could be linked to a memory. These small pieces of fabric, from different people, were sewn together to create a blanket that holds mysteries and memories; while all different, they come together to form a stunning piece of artwork. 

Our lives are a lot like that, aren’t they? These “swatches” are pieces of our lives, from our birth to our today; all these pieces are sewn together to create a single thing, in this case: us. Each “swatch” holds a story; it holds memories of days past and so many people have invested time and energy to ensure that it can be the best possible. Maybe, instead of imagining our lives as a puzzle that needs to be completed, we should see our lives as a quilt that is in the working, filled with days past all sewn together to represent who you are becoming. 

Now for the fun part! We are going to imagine this quilt. Have a picture in your brain? Good. Now I want you to look at some of the individual pieces of fabric.What do they look like? What do they represent? What pieces of your life make up your quilt? 

Here are some of mine: 

God. He was the first one to pick up a needle, the first one to begin this quilt. His swatch is of Him holding a little girl, who is me. All this time, He’s had his hand in my life, leading me exactly where He wants me. He’s the only one who can see the end result of this quilt, and He’s the one making sure all the threads are tight and secure, while preparing more squares to be added. 


China. One of the first sewn pieces, it’s rather big because China has made such a large impact in my life and I don’t want to forget that. I like to picture this fabric as a smaller version of the Chinese flag.

My birthparents. I can’t really imagine what this one looks like; it's just two people holding a baby. All we can see is their backs. But still, they are essential to include, even if part of that patch is a mystery. 

My family. If there’s any doubt, I love my family, and they are my people. Of course they would be one of the biggest squares on here. I like to picture this part as six people embroidered onto the fabric, all holding hands. 

My friends. This patch is interesting as it’s not as big as you would expect. But the details are impressive. Four of my closest friends are in the forefront, while shadows of other people linger in the background. I think this cube represents those who are with me, and those who aren’t anymore. It’s bittersweet, but that’s what gives this quilt so much depth. 

The Newest Flower, Okay, you guys had to expect this one. This book was written when I was trying to grasp how I felt about being different, and the opportunities and growth I’ve had from this book have shaped me in so many ways. 

Gotcha Days. I like to see this section broken into little squares, each one holding a memory from earlier Gotcha Days. It’s a bright, cheerful cube, and you have to use a magnifying glass to see all the little engravings. But this cube represents celebration, a joy that cannot be measured, so this is one of the most priceless swatches to me. 

I could go on and on about all the little moments that have brought me here, but I’m not going to do that. These are some of the most notable squares in my quilt, and these ones showcase my journey. I would like to challenge you to reflect and find out which ones best showcase your journey, and think about why. May you all be blessed as we all continue to add swatches to our own quilts. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Grief

People always talk about grief and loss when someone dies. 

“One more smile, one more brush of hands, I’d trade everything for one more chance.” 

I’ve witnessed grief, and I’ve had my share of death. And yes, there’s a part of me that would give so much to go back, to rewind the clock just so I could sit in the person’s presence.

But beyond death, we grieve for losses in our own lives. And this grief, while less understood, is just as painful and overwhelming. 

“One more smile, one more brush of hands, I’d trade everything for one more chance.” 

When I say this quote outloud, the first person who comes to my mind isn't a relative I've lost to death; it isn’t even my old friends of whom I've grown apart from. 

Who I’m actually grieving is my birthmother. 

What we don’t realize is that grief isn’t something you just put in a box and bury. 

Something I wish I had been told years ago is this: You can still grieve someone who is still alive.

Up until now, I never realized the fact that I needed to grieve. And maybe that is why the Lord gave me a vivid dream of a mother who was in desperate need to find her lost daughter. When He gave me this, it showed me just a fraction of the grief that she was feeling, and in turn, made me realize that I, myself, am grieving. 

And so, as I came to this conclusion while writing a letter to my birthparents, in honor of  Mother’s Day, I commented on how much I just wanted to be able to hug her and tell her just once, in person, how much she did for me--just like how the mother in my dream so desperately wanted to do the same and hug her long lost daughter. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

"Do You Feel Chinese?"

Despite looking physically different from the majority of people I’m surrounded by; most of the time, I don’t even realize that I’m Chinese. Even when I’m looking directly in a mirror, the fact that I’m Chinese is more of a second thought. I mean, I’m not American, but I’m pretty sure that they don’t look at themselves and think, “I’m feeling quite American today.” 

Which is why I’m always baffled when people ask, “Do you feel Chinese?”

Sometimes, I want to answer, “No, I feel like a Canadian,” just to see their faces. But in all seriousness, I don’t really see a need for this question because it’s almost, in some sort of weird way, like making me choose between my American upbringing or my Chinese heritage. I can’t choose because both have and will continue to influence my life, my choices, and shape who I am. 

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments where I just feel Chinese. Those moments happen when I huddle in with my volleyball team and notice that I’m significantly tanner than everyone else. I also feel it when I put my contacts in, and my eyes are refusing to stretch anymore, thanks to my almond-shaped eyes. Additionally, I feel it when I have nothing to share with a group about the first three years of my life. 

To answer the question in the most honest way I can, I do feel Chinese: I feel it every once in awhile--like a gentle voice telling me I am not in the same place I started. And sometimes, that thought makes me feel anything from angry to sad. These thoughts can make me feel out of place, momentarily awkward, or will make me question who I am and why God placed me here of all places.  

But then, I stop and reflect . . . I take a look at what I’ve been able to do because of my Chinese heritage. My rich history was what kindled me to write The Newest Flower. It’s because of this history that I can go into classrooms and encourage kids to embrace their differences. Every book event I’ve ever done was because of my Chinese heritage. This entire blog is dedicated to the fact that I’m Chinese. But perhaps the most telling is when I can look in the face of a little girl named Nadine and say that my Chinese background helped her get home. 

And all of this has happened, not in spite of being Chinese, but because I am Chinese. So if you ask me today if I feel Chinese, my answer would sound a little like this, “Yes, because some of my greatest moments have been because of my Chinese heritage, and it’s part of who I am.”