We named her Hope and He tethered us with a name we couldn’t change.
She was birthed in Africa’s dirt and lived more life and death in her five years than some see in their thirty-five. She saw blood before it stained and talked of bodies, when breath had left them and the ground absorbed them, as casually as if it were a Sunday ceremony. The girl we’d named Hope was shackled by a story that spoke the opposite.
And He picked me, this one who’d made a habit out of fear, to mother her.
Her days wore the scars you’d expect from her history and I was called to restore them. Hugging and holding, looking directly into the eyes of the one you call Mommy, were unfamiliar to her street-wise skin. She knew how to snatch and to catch and hoard – but to receive?
She wailed when I found her, pen in hand and brand-new birthday baby doll, defaced. Her life’s inertia had never before been given pause and these new days in our home were allowing her to slow down to a new pace, where the thought that so often trailed the action was now catching up to its rightful place.
Day after day I called her name — the name I wasn’t so sure I believed — and, all the while He was speaking that same new word over this mama’s fears. He picked this least likely candidate, the one who’d learned to entertain worst-case-scenario outcomes as if they already existed. I didn’t get to walk the tight rope at two feet high; He was going to win me in the moment, with no net but His to break my fall.
She now climbs into my lap and clasps her hands behind my neck as if there’s a groove there, carved just for her. She counts down hours on Fridays, until ballet, and says “Mommy, look at me. I’m graceful,” as her stature speaks a confidence that’s new. In response to a question just yesterday, she quietly, cautiously said with her eyes staring down at her hands, “the best thing about being a Hagerty is family time. And, well … having a family.” These thoughts are fresh to her. She’s grown to love what was, once, awkward and uncomfortable.
She is all dressed up in her name; though plenty of room to grow, this child has stretch marks. She’s making strides that only point to Him.
And when those days roll, one into another, where I’m not praying for her — where I’m analyzing and correcting and discussing with Nate, but about which I’m not talking to Him — the gauge reveals that I’ve lost hope.
Prayer is hope’s overflow.
And hope comes from looking, long, at Him. Friends, hope — true hope from Him — is glorious because our circumstances couldn’t possibly lift us to the heights of expectation where the God-Man wants us to live.
Hope is holy, other.
And when I receive it, from Him, prayer is the natural exhale.
Prayer is our body’s response to the understanding that there is a God staring deeply into our story, whose finger is resting on our blood-lines and whose glory is being forged through their most difficult moments. His eyes have not gotten distracted or distant in one of our mommy-moments; every single one of their heart-and-life wanderings is being used to call us back to that conversation. Because to have that conversation — the running, ongoing, all-over-my minutes daily conversation with God — requires a hope I can’t simply muster, even on my best days.
And when the mutterings-to-Him under my breath are on pause — when my mind is spinning and my tongue is reacting and my nerves and my patience are shot but my heart isn’t connecting with His over hers — the bigger question is why have I lost hope? Or rather, when did I stop looking, long, at Him?
He lets their wheels squeak, these daughters of ours. He calls us to stories much bigger than we can handle and aches and pains well beyond our reach, all so that we might search out the One who dispenses hope.
Every single one of their issues — you know, those things about them that tempt the worst of us, and the circumstances that surface them that we dread — is His opportunity to reach our hearts.
They are purposed.
And when we come away from those with hope (because we’ve looked, long, at Him), we pray back prayers that can soften the hardest parts of their little-girl hearts. Tiny prayers*, I call them. Our minute-prayers wash the blood off their broken stories (and, yes, even our biological children have fielded the brokenness of sin in their story) and invite a partnership with God that might just turn their biggest failings into something glorious.
Our girls have shoes much too big for them to fill.
Between now and when they grow old, we get to make a baby book which only His eyes, and the angels surrounding Him, will see in full. I want my girl to cross over the threshold of heaven with an underground story of how her mama’s hope-fueled prayers were like hands clasped into the Father’s, partnering to make her a radiant signpost for Him.
Prayer is a discipline on those very-real days when we need a habit to keep His Word flushing through our system and over their fingerprints … but prayer is also a great delight — a thrill, even — when we get a glimpse of the kind of Man who is writing their story and calling us to not just react, but to participate.
*Tiny Prayers For Our Girls Made Practical: A life gets changed in the little minutes. In the days of flash-pot attention spans produced by endless streams of information, it takes me slicing life down to “minutes” to see their mind-and-heart change as attainable.
I’ve prayed others’ lists and recently started making my own. Then, I tailored these prayers for my children. Acronyms that I can remember linked to verses which I want to have work their way into their insides. I start with a small goal: pray this acronym once a day, for each of them. (Some days I get stuck on one letter.)
I write it in my own pen and carry my Bible, cracked open, or my moleskin journal that can be easily tucked under my arm or propped on my bathroom vanity. I print this paper and tuck it in the pocket of my running shorts to pray during my cool-down. I pick up where I left off, all day long. Each letter may lend itself more towards one particular child, in one particular moment. And when that happens, I linger there in prayer for a little longer.
(And a note: I have one for me and one I pray for Nate, too. Not too different than theirs. If you use Instagram, Mandie Joy has helped me tailor these prayers to screen-size bites. You can sign up to see them as we roll them out.)
Photos compliments of Mandie Joy Photography.