I looked for her while we were in Ethiopia, almost two years ago.
I got on the plane to pick up my two, with a secret prayer that He might also lead me to her.
Her existence haunted me.
She takes many different shapes and forms, but the undercurrent is all the same. The ten year-old eyes, deep with story, whose seniority makes her a leader at the orphanage. She holds the babies, minutes before their forever-mothers scoop them up, and gives tours to the family members curious about their child’s temporary home. Always the miracle’s witness, never the recipient.
Sometimes she is seven and beautiful in heart, but not to the beholder’s eye. Easily passed over. Other times she is thirteen, long graduated from her opportunity for rescue.
We visited a children’s home full of ones like these and sat in a room like celebrities amidst dozens of fatherless. To them, we were the elite; we had what they wanted, each girl’s eyes hungry to have someone in the role I’d only just stepped into days before. They sang their practiced worship songs and, each one, stood and shared their name and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Giggles of innocence erupted at one another’s minute-long presentations and I wept behind the eyes that made sure to connect with every single face, wondering what mother would steward their dreams with them.
I asked Lord, is she here?
I studied them, one-by-one, desperate to hear Him say yes, pursue her. I was not naive about the two others waiting back at the guest home who, days before, had just become Hagerty’s. I just knew in that moment that if He told me to stretch my tent pegs, He’d equip me.
But I heard not yet. And I left this beautiful haven, in the middle of tin corrugated huts, which was feeding these girls’ spirits and their bone-thin bodies, with a desire for more for them.
Everyone has slivers of God’s heart He’s parceled to them. His heart so big, one single human frame couldn’t possibly carry into fruition all of it. I admire, from up close and from a distance, the slivers of friends. Their callings, so other and beautiful to me. And sometimes I envy. But His impartation is like wildflower seeds scattered, waiting for spring’s rain to call forth the diverse union that sends glory back to Him.
One of my slivers is to be her mommy. The older child, the one without an exit strategy. Her.
Like any God-parceled dream, it’s the supple ground that’s witnessed the squatters’ fight between my unfettered fears and my most intimate hopes.
I want to hold the broken parts of her that, by most standards, are at risk for never being healed and sing songs of deliverance over them. I want to pick up lanky limbs, long past the days when they could have been swaddled, and wrap myself around them. I want to speak beauty to what has grown hollow.
I want to prophesy to the dry bones and tell them they will live.
And up until just about 6 weeks ago, I continued to hear not yet. Both from the Lord and from the handsome ally He’s appointed me.
We got the broadest possible “pre-approval” for our adoption — 3 children up to age 13, with any range of needs — knowing that the Lord could easily send us down a path we hadn’t expected. But we certainly didn’t plan for Him to do that.
Sure, I hoped. I hadn’t forgotten her. Every few months I’ve resurrected the prayer to be the mommy of her new future, the steward of her dreams. But it seemed that the response, like that of many things in my life, was still wait.
But God, in a way that only He can do, led us down a path, through an alley and back out the other side as we pursued our second referral. And in the midst of this story (about which I will share more in detail, later), she surfaced.
The picture of the eight year-old in my inbox didn’t particularly elicit the feeling that so many adoptive mothers expect to receive at first glance (but rarely do) — but her story’s scent drew me to attention. Sweet child, found alone in the world, who called an orphanage her home. She was a face among many, raised by committee. Though surely loved by her caretakers along the way, she had no memories of a father or mother.
Is this her? I asked, expecting the answer to be no. My waiting heart verged on disbelief that there was something on the other side of this wait.
We laid face to the floor and crawled through days of prayer asking Him if she was to be a Hagerty.
And when He finally answered, dropping the yes into Nate’s spirit, my heart-full-of-unbelief felt shock. All these years of dreaming weren’t my childish mind-wanderings but preparation, it seemed.
So we’ve named her Lily. Innocence. Purity. Beauty. All those things threatened in her desert years of youth, are the ones He will re-birth.
And we’re already watching, from a distance, her dry bones gain flesh as she prepares to be a daughter.
Between last September and now, our family map has taken a different course than what we initially expected. Two toddlers, under the age of four, instead are five and eight year-old soon-to-be sisters whose stories will intersect on one day in the near future when they both become Hagerty’s.
And we couldn’t be more excited.
God is so good.