She wept, her body deflated against mine. We suspected the dream might be interrupted by reality at some point, but I had no idea it would be at the hands of my decision-making lapse.
Addy was hers. A miniature American Girl doll with a $20 price-tag was one of the first items Eden would own outright. We gave it to her as a gift and from the moment she was unwrapped, Addy was under Eden’s jurisdiction.
Months later when we were in Uganda I violated a simple principle we had in place. There were a few things each child had the ability to choose to share, because developing a benevolent heart involves making a choice, and Addy was one of those. In a weak moment, an effort to pacify, I took away Eden’s choice and shared her “daughter” without asking. Unfortunately, her sister’s babysitting hands were street-trained and little dolls require a finesse which isn’t inherent to former street kids. Addy fell prey, and Eden — the child normally willing to give the shirt off her back and then some — crumbled.
The weight of bringing two especially needy children into her ready-established world broke over her.
“It’s my fault, sweetheart. We’ll get you another one when we get home,” I said, knowing the doll was the least of her worries.
Weeks after we returned home the new Addy arrived. The old Addy with Africa’s stains had found her home in Hope’s bed. Now, two of my three girls had Addy’s.
Shortly thereafter, those same two had birthdays. And gift-loving Nanas sent newer, larger dolls — with long hair, a treasure in our home.
This left sweet Lily with the doll we gave her when we arrived in Uganda. Poor doll, one with string for hair that paled in comparison to her brand spankin’ new cousins. And while Lily did her best to be excited for her sisters, her eyes for what she did not have were obvious.
“How many days until my birthday, Mommy?” she asked, expectant.
I overheard her, one day, praying in her room, asking Jesus for a baby-doll like her sisters’. Hmmmm, I thought, what do we do with this? We already were walking upstream with her against what we perceived to be the inertia of the world and the flesh which craved stuff.
But, you see, my little girl had an established communication with her Daddy. She prayed that we would arrive on a certain day in Uganda, with no prior knowledge that we were even coming. And on that very day we arrived. Tuesday July 5th, just like she’d asked. She prayed specifics of our case, throughout the judicial process, and God heard every request.
“Jesus, let the judge say ‘yes’ and please let him be nice,” she prayed one afternoon in Uganda while we waited on our ruling. The judge we had seen days before spoke with authority in a way that a child (or an intimidated adult :)) might perceive to be anger. Days later when we sat in his office again, he slid his spectacles down the bridge of his nose and smiled at Lily, wishing her well.
Lily was in the habit of asking. And God is in the habit of responding to this formerly fatherless one. His ear seemed bent to her broken pleas.
Isn’t this the way of the Father?
Well, I shelved this prayer request for a doll in lieu of practical conversations with Lily about how to walk out in gratitude for what we already had, rather than fixing our eyes on what we think we might (one day) want. Seven year-olds are still malleable; her heart grew to understand this concept, though I suspected her secret prayer for the doll continued. Lily seemed to know she had the red phone.
Weeks later I got an email in my inbox from an old friend. Apparently her grown daughter had remembered her American Girl doll, from something like 15 years ago, stowed away in their attic and thought of my girls. “Would Lily or Hope want this doll?” she asked.
Her name was Addy.
Sure enough the attached picture revealed not the $20 miniature Addy I’d purchased weeks ago and, first, months before that. This Addy was the real deal. Same doll, same clothes, same “story” — because each doll comes with a story — except bigger. This Addy wouldn’t fit in her desk drawer like Eden’s and Hope’s.
It seems God had trumped our rationale. And He wasn’t stingy in His response.
When I met with my friend for tea a few weeks later, she brought the doll. “Sara, when Alex [her daughter] picked this particular doll off the shelf when she was a little girl, I had a sense it was about something bigger. It was strong enough for me to remember now. I knew I would understand later her choice of this particular African-American doll.”
I had chills as she told me.
God not only heard Lily’s prayers but orchestrated the answer years before she was even born. And Lily didn’t get just any doll, she got Addy.
Who is this God?
The God of the fatherless — you, me, her — who cups His hands around even our miniscule pleas. He pays attention.
And while an answer to a little girl’s prayer for a doll is nowhere near the life-healing change we expect in the years to come, it is an olive branch. A sign. A picture of God’s character and nature, as one who responds to His people. Extravagantly. This had very little to do with the doll, and everything to do with God. For her, and for me. Her seven year-old heart “got it” in a very non-epiphany sort of way. It was as if she said of course, Jesus is full of surprises.
He witnesses the still-small movements of our heart, and our invitation is to engage with Him there.
I am not changed by the broad strokes. I expect Him there. But when I see the hand of Jesus intersecting that which seems far too small for the CEO I’ve made Him out to be, I move forward.
I move in.
And He meets me.
And I ask for more, because He is more. And I, like Lily, am a little girl who has a lifetime ahead of wooing by her Daddy. I’m at the beginning of the beginning of the beginning of knowing this Man.
First photo compliments of Mandie Joy photography.