[Friends who have followed this blog will know that the following post is slightly uncharacteristic for this space. This "ask", however, is one that is deeply personal and one that's just about making me burst. Read and marvel at how He weaves a story ... and please pray and ask if He would have you participate. Under His leadership we don't need to beg or persuade, we simply need to lean and trust; if He wills it, He'll do the nudging.]
While I sipped Starbucks and slept deep, wrapped in down, these girls formed a sisterhood not around bloodlines, but from blood spilled.
They made rocks and sand their playground and promised with their lives, not their words, that they would see one another as unsoiled. They built a fort around their friendship and learned to love like family, though they’d never known the safety of a family’s love.
They stood up for each other, as only sister-friends would do; their sorority was their survival. They protected one another’s dreams, as if each refused to poke a hole in the thin sheath wrapped around expectation-for-a-way-out in a world of physical destitution.
War raged around them, taking on different forms throughout their changing seasons. Early, it was physical war that likely left them both orphaned, and later it was the war that seeks to kill the hearts of those who are fatherless.
But they had a tangible sign of His hope, each in the other.
They were one another’s safe place.
Lily and Stella* were best friends.
And then we came for Lily – this child who’d never known a mommy or a daddy and had no grid for being a daughter. She spent weeks frozen in the uncertainty of who she was and where she fit. Her goodbye to Stella was hollow, as if they were classmates who shared pencils and not soulmates who shared a life-story. It was too much for her little frame to conceive that she not only, now, had a home and a bed and a baby doll, but that she would sleep under the safety-umbrella of parents.
Love expanded in her reality and she fumbled at its introduction.
Weeks after her homecoming, she began to thaw. And she looked back.
Stella was living the pain that was now in Lily’s past, now only but to process. Stella was still an orphan to man — but not to God.
Lily began to pray for the fusion of Stella’s heavenly reality as loved, chosen, fathered to become her earthly reality. In eight year-old terms, she prayed: Father, give Stella a home and a mommy and daddy.
This world that Lily had grown to embrace now stood in stark contrast to the place she’d grown up, where the terror of night was her food and her mattress sagged, dirty, in the room she slept in with no doors and no Mommy to cuddle her.
Her bestie was left behind.
After a ten-year lapse, we reconnected over adoption and marriage and life that had dealt us more hard-knocks than our sixteen year-old selves ever anticipated. She lost babies and I couldn’t conceive them.
Both of us had scars across our midriffs.
We spent our teenage years sprawled across my color-coordinated bedspread, dreaming about the ways we would reach the world for Jesus. Neither one of us expected that our greatest impact might just be under our roofs.
Beth was mature, back then, and I was flighty. She lived high school beautifully-understated, and I stood on the sidelines of football games, cheering on a sport I never quite understood (to my husband’s continuing chagrin). We were opposites on the outside, but sisters, under the surface. Years would peel off my layers so that when we reconnected, the new bond He formed between us re-framed our friendship.
I met her daughter in Ethiopia, not long after we reconnected, and nearly a year before she got to hold her for the first time. And she birthed her miracle-baby while she waited an unprecedented amount of time for her miracle-child on the other side of the world. (In the interim, we deployed The Love Project.)
The week I met Lily in Uganda, Beth sent me an email: I am pregnant!
We dreamed across the ocean from one another about this new birth and the sense of promise it held for her fragmented womb. “I knew it, Sara,” she said. “I suspected He had another child for us, despite the odds.”
A month later she miscarried, and I cried while she bled, for the pain of my sister, my friend.
We had protected one another’s dreams, as if each refused to poke a hole in the thin sheath wrapped around expectation for a way of healing against an opposing physical reality.
Months later, we began our fight for Stella. Lily advocated with her prayers and I did with action. I’d posted to Facebook and sent out emails, with no response. An eleven or twelve year-old with no history of family or attachment, to many, is a frightening proposition as a daughter.
It appeared she had lost her baby fat and her appeal — a child of this age had an unlikely trajectory for adoption — but could it be that He was preserving her for another, hand-picked?
When I mentioned her to Beth, her voice caught. “I’ll talk to Austin,” she said.
They prayed and, weeks later, Austin’s response was: “I can’t get her off my mind. I think this child is our daughter.”
So I carried it, quietly. They needed circumstantial change to provide, monthly, for an additional grown-child. They labored in prayer and Nate and I midwifed. For eight months this child warmed in the womb of Beth’s heart.
They took small steps of faith that were still financial risks. They got a homestudy and contacted an agency to represent their adoption of this child, off the beaten path for most agencies in Uganda. All while they waited on a circumstantial shift that would allow provision, and confirmation that they were to take her in.
This step to adopt an older child like Stella, with the shards of her brokenness still wedged in her flesh, was no small one.
And then it came. Overnight.
A new job, which would give new life to this new daughter.
Stella would be a Wilkerson. My friend — spanning two decades of my life, who hasn’t just heard my retrospective account of pain, but has cupped my tears and known of the sweet intimacies with Him birthed in that dark room — will be the mother of Lily’s friend, who won’t just “one day” hear Lily’s retrospective account of her story, but who will be able to smell the soil on which it happened.
Who could orchestrate this, but God?
The Father of the fatherless has unfolded a magnificent display of His glory in two sets of almond eyes whose stains of blood beyond the birthing room will be washed with a new story.
We grew up, miles apart, in our comfortable suburban lives, when they knew no comfort but His. Our daughters clasped hands across their childhood as a subconscious reminder that healing was still accessible from the touch of Another’s flesh.
And, in His mercy, He invited us to shelter hearts that had understandings of Him of which those of us with all the props of life have to fight to obtain. Together, side-by-side, my dear friend and I will wash their wounds with kisses and have our hearts cracked open for the lengths to which He goes to retrieve one of His lost sheep.
Stella and Lily will be reunited on U.S. soil, while Beth and I tremble at what He has done.
This is where you come in.
This story isn’t Lily’s or Stella’s or the Wilkerson’s or ours … it’s His. Glory is seeping underneath the door of this birthing room and, at nearly every mention of it, I cry in awe.
Who is this God that could orchestrate a reunion of hearts and souls and lives across continents and into families, already merged? Who is this Man who was birthed in dirt, once, only to set a precedent for running His calloused hands across broken flesh and promising a new, holy legacy?
The God of the fatherless calls us to the fatherless, not only because of their need, but also because of our own. We learn redemption when He fuses the wounds of the child, unknown to man, but set apart to Him.
He speaks through story. And the story of the one who is orphaned but chosen, whose name we know and whose life is one in which we’ve invested, works itself into our understanding in a deeper way than a sermon or a teaching.
There is a front-row seat in this hallowed moment.
Will you midwife this child with an infant-heart, ready to be re-written, with us?
As we stand here with others on Orphan Sunday, a day where the church takes their stance in prayer and in action in defending the cause of the fatherless, would you prayerfully consider sowing a seed, here?
The Wilkerson’s adoption will cost an estimated $30,000, which roughly breaks down to $10,000 in adoption agency fees, $10,000 in airfare (their in-country stay will be at least 5 weeks and possibly longer; therefore, they will be traveling with their entire family) and another $10,000 of in-country legal, transportation, and accommodation fees. They’ve been selectively approved by Lifesong for Orphans** to field their donations as tax-deductible.
Will you carry them with your prayers?
Will you sow into her rescue? Would you share this story with those who have a hunger for redemption – on Facebook and Twitter, on email and your own blogs and among your family and friends?
Will you make an ask on Stella’s behalf?
There is a face behind this story.
Some days, I want to greet everyone I see with a word that says: did you ever wonder how He responds to your broken heart? My daughter’s story paints a picture. Just look and see.
His love confounds me.
Or send a check to Lifesong for Orphans marked “Wilkerson Adoption” so that it gets properly applied to Stella’s adoption.
*Stella is the name the Wilkerson’s have chosen to give Lily’s dear friend, upon adoption. We’ve masked her original name to protect her identity in this adoption process.
** Please mark any check or donation with “Wilkerson Adoption” so that it gets properly applied to Stella’s adoption. Lifesong for Orphans is a certified member of the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability. 100% of all funds raised will go directly to cover adoption costs—nothing will be taken out for Lifesong for Orphans’ administrative costs. Please note that in following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the non-profit organization Lifesong for Orphans. They retain full discretion over its use, but intend to honor the donor’s suggestion. Individual donations of $250 or more and yearly donations totaling $250 or more will receive a tax-deductible receipt.
If you have any questions regarding the Wilkerson’s adoption that you would like to direct to them, you can send an email to stellajoywilkerson(at)gmail.com.