Tonight another name was added to the book of life read the first line of her email. The subject said “and the angels are rejoicing.” Just months before Mandie Joy, a name I’d never heard before, was suggested to me as a contact over email. And here, now, this woman’s were those beautiful feet who shared the message of Jesus with my daughter.
The path to Lily was circuitous.
Had I known, when we turned down an option to adopt an eight year-old girl (because we didn’t think we were yet ready to adopt an older child), that our path would later lead us to a child whose birth certificate read eight but whose life demonstrated ten or eleven+ years without us, I would have been shocked.
Isn’t that His way? He graciously leads us, patient with the switchbacks required to get us from one point to another.
Mandie Joy had an evolving story which aligned with ours in ways we’re still unpacking. And God crossed our paths at just the right moment — the offspring of our friendship would be an eight year old girl.
We got to know each other over one month’s time, as Nate and I pursued the adoption of two who lived at an orphanage just around the corner from her, with her help. Little did I know that those two children were points on the map and not the end goal. When the Lord closed the door to these children whose pictures we’d plastered on our wall and whose faces filled our middle-of-the-night prayers, Mandie said but there’s another.
In my inbox came the brief story of a child, orphaned most all of her life. She wasn’t the four-and-under boy we thought would be our next referral, or the toddler girl we could picture in our mix. But we couldn’t ignore the obvious path which led us to her and, when we prayed, our sense was how could we not say yes?
In a matter of days I realized that she was the little girl who’d been haunting my deep dreams — the one who knew nothing other than fatherlessness in her life. She was ripe for the redemptive touch we’d been asking to administer.
So Mandie and two others — Rachel & Christina — brought her in. They took her from the orphanage into their care and began to apply the healing balm which years of being alone in the world required. From them she learned about hot showers, consistent meals, and tickles.
How can an eight year old not know how to give a hug or plant a kiss? So she learned.
They lived love for her. Holy demonstration of all that this child lacked.
While we waited on her paperwork, it seemed fitting that this transition home would be the place where she would receive her new name. We called her Lily and from the moment she heard it from these foster mamas, she loved it. “She introduced herself as Lily today” read the subject line of yet another email bearing word of my little girl’s unfolding story, half-way around the world.
Though their lives and plates were full with other fatherless ones on their way to a family, they somehow managed a daily drip of updates on our sweet Lily. We weren’t yet on the playing field, but had box seats for her early transformation. This child was coming alive in their care.
As I learned more about each of their stories, I couldn’t help but worship the God who had sent ones wired perfectly to teach this child what being a Hagerty is all about. The intricate details of their family lives and our family’s life intersected in such ways that their exact responses to Lily’s wounded heart lined up with what our responses would have been.
God chose for us the perfect surrogates.
Day after day I stood in wonder of a God who created the heavens and the ocean-deep. yet did not miss one detail in the redemption of an eight-year old found toddling at under two in a refuge camp, shedding tears for what she had no way of understanding she’d lost to war.
To have a brush with this kind of Love woven into my story makes it impossible for me to not worship with more of my life.
Because if there is a message which emerged over the months of waiting to hold Lily and Hope, it is that God is a good, good father. The intricacies of our story pushed my flesh up against the Man who was holding all of it, yet letting me participate.
So when, days before they told her she was a Hagerty and days after she’d slept her first night in a bed designated just for her, I received an email saying she’d asked Jesus into her heart — I was not surprised.
The transformation that a family brings is only a shadow of the transformation which the Father brings. This decision was paramount for her broken heart.
Her surrogate mother became her spiritual mother.
Blessed are the feet of those who bring the good news.
For generations, the stories of these women, these surrogates, will be told in Hagerty households. Their sacrifice was our lineage, their outpouring is our testimony. When Lily came to us just two weeks ago, she already had shed orphan skin. Her eyes had the light of restoration. She’d received Love’s touch. His love, and their love now became our love.
What a holy transition home.
How can we ever say thank you is the phrase Nate and I have used many times over the past few months. To them. To Him.
Our God, so infinite, so intimate. So kind.