Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
When I asked Lily what she prayed for all those years while she was in the orphanage, she said,
“I didn’t have a mommy or a daddy, so I asked for them.”
Lily has been asking for a mommy and a daddy for as long as she knew they were missing in her life. She has always longed for family, but like so many children labeled “older orphans”, her hope for them grew fainter as years passed. The orphanage she called home had little resources to measure those passing years – birthdays went by unnoticed, often even unknown. Days of longing melted into weeks that melted into years without the standard markers children use to celebrate the passage of time. Her waiting became a blur of memories, but her faith never wavered.
One day in early April, I stopped at the orphanage on a special errand for Lily. I knew that the child who had been planted in my heart on February 6th had been planted in a family since before the beginning of time. The day before this visit to the orphanage, I learned who they were. The time had not come yet for her to know about them, but I knew and my errand that day was the first of many. Weeks later, I asked Lily if she remembered the day when I picked her up from the orphanage to go into town and make passport pictures. She remembered. I asked what she thought when out of the blue she was sent to put on shoes and climb on the back of a motorcycle with a woman she had only seen a few times before and be whisked off to town on a mission she didn’t understand. She said, “I thought...
‘Maybe there is a family for me‘.”
I was surprised that she could have thought this. At the time, no child had ever been adopted from this orphanage. But she held onto hope.
And there was a family for her. The days passed and as more and more details fell into place, the time became right for Lily to know that her prayers had been answered. We were eating breakfast alone in an empty hotel room. Rachel was kind enough to take care of all FOUR other babies so that I could have some one-on-one time with Lily. Later that afternoon, I handed her a book that I had already thumbed through many times. On each page was a picture and a simple explanation of what family would mean for her. Daddy can’t wait to give you hugs and tickle you. Mommy is praying for you every day. On Christmas, we dress up in nice clothes and celebrate Jesus’s birth. We love to play in the snow!
She breathed in deep as she took her time reading each word. Her fingers brushed over the faces that now represented words she had only dreamed of one day using. Her eyes met mine as she tried them out-loud for the first time. Daddy. Mommy.
Lily changed in the first few days she spent in our little family, but the change we saw after she found out that she had been created for a forever family was astonishing. Desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Just 8 hours after we told Lily about her family, I wrote an email to them describing the change we were witnessing in this little girl. She stood taller. When strangers asked about our odd little family, she eagerly told them that her real family was coming soon. Her countenance changed. A weight she had been carrying since she was little – “who am I?” – had been lifted. She knew. She belonged.
This video is holy ground – the camera pointed at Lily in my trembling hands as she saw the faces of her long awaited family for the first time. When she finishes the book, I ask her if she wants to say anything to her family. Her response was completely spontaneous and un-coached.
(I have since added “the end of the story” to this video & a little surprise twist at the end!)