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Monday, March 21, 2011

The Secret of Happiness

If you haven't noticed (yeah right, who could miss it?), I am a bit of a mess lately. I can't seem to focus long enough to do any of the projects that need doing around here. I'm not reading many blogs or returning emails like I usually do because I can't seem to sit still long enough. I'm antsy. I'm fretting. I'm a bundle of nerves.

I'm nervous.

We are inching towards referral and I am nervous. Nervous to be starting all over again. Nervous about our future daughter. Nervous about the Tongginator moving from an only child into a big sister. Nervous about introducing a wealth of unknowns into our comfortable family of three. NERVOUS.

But this weekend something happened that just slowed everything down. It calmed me. It brought tears to my eyes, in the best way possible. Bear with me as I jot this story down, because I don't want to ever forget it, but my mind continues to race around like a mad woman, so my writing will probably be all over the place.

On Saturday night, a little after 9:00 in the evening, the phone rang. When I first heard the shrill sound of the telephone, I thought it was the Husband - traveling on the west coast - calling to wish me good night, but it ended up being the Tongginator's Chinese culture/ language teacher, ShanghaiSweetie. She also happens to be a very close friend of mine. Her husband has been ill lately (they are in their seventies), so my heart stopped when our caller ID announced her name. ShanghaiSweetie goes to bed promptly at nine every night, so I ran to the phone, expecting to hear terrible news.

Thank God it wasn't.

ShanghaiSweetie called to tell me that she lay in bed that night, trying to fall asleep, but she simply couldn't do it until she shared a story with me. We'd met for class earlier that day, you see, and the Tongginator touched her heart in a huge way. She was sorry to call so late, but we aren't having class next week, and ShanghaiSweetie was afraid she'd forget to tell me what occurred that day.

So she called.

The Tongginator's Chinese class is really more of a culture class than a language class. They do learn Mandarin, but ShanghaiSweetie focuses most of class time on culture: cooking, legends and stories, brush painting, games, you name it. That morning, she shared an ancient legend with the children about "the paper of happiness." You can find the full story in Chapter 15 of Where The Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, but briefly...

The story tells of a large family that grew famous for their happiness. Never did a cross word or unhappy sound emerge from their lips. Their cats all purred; their chickens did not fight; even the babies were said to be born smiling. A magistrate heard of this family and wanted to learn the secret of their happiness. He sent an emissary and a company of soldiers to retrieve their secret, asking that the family write it down on a sheet of paper before closing the lid of a locked chest.

Surprisingly, the grandfather generously and joyfully shared the family's secret by writing it down on the paper and carefully closing the chest's lid. The emissary and soldiers promptly left, walking through the night to return the secret to Magistrate Tiger. But when the ground turned rocky over the mountains, a stiff wind buffeted the soldiers. They stumbled amid the rocks and the box crashed to the ground. The lid of the box flew open and the single sheet of paper fluttered away. For a second one soldier caught it, but a second gust of wind tore it from his hands and stole it away.

The soldiers and emissary returned to Magistrate Tiger, empty-handed, never having read the secret of happiness that the grandfather had shared. The soldier who had touched the paper briefly knew that the secret was only one character, written over and over, to form a line of text, but he was illiterate and did not know what word it was.

Furious, Magistrate Tiger sent the emissary and soldiers back to the family, to retrieve the secret a second time, but when they returned, the family was gone. There were no smiling faces, not even the chickens were there. The secret of happiness was lost forever.

ShanghaiSweetie shared this legend with the girls, then sat quietly for a minute. The girls all pondered the story, and then ShanghaiSweetie asked them, "what one word do you think was written on the page? What do you think is the secret to happiness?" The Tongginator sat quietly while the others discussed the story. The other girls threw out several ideas, ones highly typical of early elementary school students, but the Tongginator sat quietly. Thinking. ShanghaiSweetie was surprised, as the Tongginator is typically not the quiet type, but then the Tongginator finally spoke, using a soft voice.

TONGGINATOR
: Mrs. ShanghaiSweetie? I think I know the word that was on the paper.

SHANGHAI SWEETIE
: You do? What do you think it was, Tongginator?

TONGGINATOR: I think... maybe... I think it was trust.

Trust. TRUST, y'all. My seven-year-old is so very wise, she brought tears to my eyes. When ShanghaiSweetie began sharing this story with me, I first guessed - because of our religious beliefs - that perhaps the Tongginator shared the name Jesus. But no... she traveled back even further than that... all the way to the Garden of Eden. My little Tongginator knew that happiness comes from trust. And when trust is broken, well, that just means you have to rebuild it.

All of the sudden I'm not so nervous anymore. Because we'll be able to get through this transition with trust. And I'll be able to explain the hard stuff to the Tongginator by reminding her that her mei mei doesn't yet trust us, and that we have to show her that she CAN trust us. And I have to trust that God will see us through.

TRUST.

My little seven-year-old Tongginator? She is amazing.

46 comments:

Cedar said...

More than amazing! Trust. So much in one little word.

Cristina said...

What a wise little soul you have there TM. Cherish her, cuddle her, and enjoy the blissful expectation of the coming days/weeks. He will be with you every step of the way xxx

Cristina said...

Perhaps I should have said 'HE'!!!! God bless you all xxxx

Kim K. said...

Beautiful post. Enjoy these next few weeks...nerves and all. HUGS!!

Laurie said...

Wonderful, wonderful post! Love the story, and am amazed by your daughter's answer!! WOW!

Kelley said...

Wow. Just wow.

Elouise82 said...

What a precious story, something to lock in your memory forever. Trust is a beautiful, precious thing, to be sure.

Aus said...

TM - your seven year old is an 'old soul' - she hold a wisdom that so many lack - remind her of that as she get's older and the pressure of the world tries to push that down and take it's place!

You are making a book for her - right?

hugs and loads of love - aus and co.

LucisMomma said...

She really is amazing. You are so blessed!

Gail said...

You've got a wise one there TM! And you know, she's going to be just fine with mei mei. She will.

hugs to you,

Gail

Jboo said...

Oh my -- you do have a very wise little one there. Love that story! Take care -- all will be fine.

Janet

The Byrd's Nest said...

I agree with Aus...she is an old soul. But she has learned about trust from you my friend. I am thankful you can breathe a sigh of relief. Love you and I am praying for all of you!!!

Dawn said...

Oh, but that many adults would understand the importance of trust! Yes, T is a wise young lady. But don't forget... she learned it from someone!!!

Be blessed!

prechrswife said...

Tears here...your girl is wise beyond her years.

Briana's Mom said...

What a smart young lady you have there. An important lesson to remember indeed.

Andrea said...

Precious!

Christine said...

wow.

I wanted to remind you that my lack of commenting is crazy-opposite of the time I spend thinking of you. :)

Robin said...

I think she is exactly right. I struggle with being happy with our situation right now because things are so up in the air with our 5 yr old foster daughter (might or might not be going home to Dad). I need to TRUST that God has everything under control. Thanks for such a beautiful reminder.

Debby said...

To say the word TRUST she has to feel it. She must have been trying to say what makes her happy and that is amzing that that is the word she chose.

sara said...

That little girl never fails to amaze me. What a smart, wise and wonderful love.

Gayla said...

I'm so glad you shared that beautiful story w/ us. I am in awe... what an amazing daughter you have! Can't wait to meet the next one...

Caren said...

Tears to my eyes, too. Thanks for sharing.

heather said...

Your daughter is truly incredible!!! I love when our children teach us something wonderful and remind us to open our minds and hearts!

DawnS said...

She is amazing!! And you brought tears to my eyes!

Claudia said...

Oh, lovely :)

the meaklims said...

Oh my oh my. Now I'm crying.

She is wise beyond her years. If my daughter said that, I'd be the happiest Mama alive, and I mean that.

A certain kind of trust even makes the angels in heaven rejoice! Oh and I don't expect you to be reading blogs and whatnot, I understand how high your emotions are at the moment! But I did post my testimoney last night! :)

Jill

Wendy said...

Wow! She is amazing! What a touching story!!!

Our Foster Family said...

Yes, yes, yes! The wise woman that Tongonator is. I didn’t even have a glimmer of that until my mid-20, let alone any idea how to actually do it!

The Drinkwaters said...

Wow! What a perceptive little girl, I too believe that trust is *the* building block in relationships.

Number 6 and no more counting! said...

yup she is! "amazing"!

lea
xo

Sherri said...

That made me cry. And blog posts don't usually make me cry.

Sharie said...

Tears are clouding the screen...I've been doing so much praying and contemplating of my own lately. Trying to figure out where my own heart is with regards to parenting. I decided yesterday to trust that my family is complete for now, but leaving it open to the future. I even believe the phrase 'trust in God' popped into my head at least once this past weekend.
Your little one is REALLY wise.

Brooke Randolph said...

Love this: Because we'll be able to get through this transition with trust. And I'll be able to explain the hard stuff to the Tongginator by reminding her that her mei mei doesn't yet trust us, and that we have to show her that she CAN trust us. And I have to trust that God will see us through.

Thank you. Moms that get it and speak and do it make it all worth it.

Suzy said...

And just like that, we see the truth so simple that even a child can recognize it. Like you, we all get so caught up in what "we" need to do and completely forget to trust the One who will give us grace for the moment. I'm so glad you got that call before you get THE call ; )

planetnomad said...

This actually made me cry. Truly a little child shall lead them. And yes, I think you are all going to do just fine!

Veronica Mitchell said...

Simply beautiful. And I read this post after reading Conversion Diary's "Trust School." Quite a day I'm having.

autumnesf said...

Do you have any idea how much easier the teen years will be with a kid that understands that concept????

Heather said...

What an old soul in a small body! How precious!

*Peach* said...

That is beautiful. : )

Football and Fried Rice said...

chills. I have chills.

The foundation of relationships - Trust!

I cant wait for referral day for you!!

Aunt LoLo said...

Beautiful, beautiful. And such a WISE little JieJie you have!!

Chris said...

Wow, leave it to a seven year old to bring it home!!

Trust.

So simple.
So hard.

I've missed you.

Been so dang busy....planning a little thing called a wedding. ;)

Man o man, I am getting so excited for y'all!!!!

Referral Day!!! Gotta be coming soon, right?

Sharon said...

Amazing!!!! Wow you must be doing more of an amazing job bringing her up than you even know!! haha. LOVED this! (I couldnt think of what it could be until you told us, but it is very right on, reminded me I have a post with that title, one of the very first, when we just had our DTC!)

The Gang's Momma! said...

Wow. Tears. What a wise young lady she is becoming. Comes from having a wise momma. You are blessed. What a great "re-positioning" experience that must have been for you. I know it is for me and mine. Thanks for sharing.

Mark said...

What a sweet smart girl she is...she learned that TRUST from her family and she will help teach it to her sister : )

Alyson and Ford said...

Why did that bring tears to my eyes? What a beautiful story and message from your daughter. Love you all!

Alyzabeth's Mommy (I'm a dumb engineer with very little human feelings, too black and white, so reading your stories just overwhelms me!! I always come back for more!)