While babies across the earth warmed in their mama's insides, mine was a photograph on my fridge. She had fingernails and eyebrows and could open and close her eyes, already. She'd done so for years when her picture wasn't on my fridge. I couldn't feel her kick, but I studied that one photograph and saw the will that is often forged within the vulnerable who are fighting desperately to be invulnerable. She was still kicking.
My only parenting tactic back then was what I prayed in secret for her.
It was too late to pray for healthy baby, healthy delivery. I prayed for one-day-healthy heart. I asked that she would be open to me, that she'd desire love -- because sometimes when you don't get it for long enough, it's easier to just stop wanting it than it is to wait for it to come. I prayed that she'd want God.
I spent months in asking for God's promises for her, this little girl who'd likely shelved dreaming for surviving. I prayed big.
Before we met her, we named her Hope -- and it was a season during which I really needed hope. It was a reach for both her and me. I knew enough of her story to know that girls like her had moxie and drive and fire in their eyes, but probably not hope. I'd walked enough of my own story -- barrenness and loss and always-waiting -- to know that girls like me were at risk for losing hope in Him.
But something about this child made me pray hope and not just call her Hope, even before I ever held her. It was as if I could raise the ceiling of my expectations for Him, in her, and in ways I had a harder time doing for myself. I prayed big. I prayed expectant. I saw with my eyes in prayer what the physical might never have told me, for her life. His unseen was powerful as I prayed.
The day we met her -- that day she still had her given name, that day she didn't yet know she was "Hope" -- she nervously led us around the back of the orphanage building to the room where she slept. I wondered if she knew that her days in that bed were limited. We walked into a room of monotone bedspreads on shabby beds. Her bed, however, was the only one in the room with a splash of color. On it, this remnant of a Western decorated bedroom, read these words: "Hope it's happy."
She'd been sleeping under her new name for months.
Our most powerful parenting happens in the unseen. The months or years when this child is an idea -- forming within us or under another's roof -- are when mamas are indoctrinated into what really shapes a life.
We wash and fold laundry and make lunches and page through dozens of read-alouds in a day. We referee squabbles and kiss ouchies and train fingers how to hold a pencil, but the real power lies in the One who made them be our connection to Him. It's found in prayer, and it takes the ceiling off of our children's lives.
When I stood at the edge of my little girl's bed -- the one who hadn't given me any reason to falter in my sky-high prayers for her -- and I read that bedspread, I remembered the slight whim by which we'd named her. I'd felt like a teenager picking a name and a future that seemed well beyond what my experience and my wisdom might tell me.
Prayer is like that.
It hooks us into that which could seem laughable to the human eye. It links us to the heart of God -- who used harlots and beggars and swindlers to carry His message. The heart of God who set a bush aflame in the desert and walked across a thin sheath of water. The heart of a God who left His grave clothes behind that third day.
Shortly after we saw her bedspread we subsequently learned that the staff of the orphanage had previously given our little girl the nickname in her language which means ... hope.
They never knew that we had named her this, from across the ocean.
What we may write off as whimsical -- these prayers speaking great exploits, both internal and external, that are tucked in His Word -- may be the very words of life for that child who is stuck.
Is our prayerlessness preventing us from seeing His unseen unfold in their lives?
Putting it into practice: I made this for me, to nudge me out of my prayerlessness and into BIG prayers for their little hearts. Join me? One letter a week, a day or an hour -- let's ask the Creator of their hearts to unlock them.
(Click the image to download a printable pdf.)
Photos and printable compliments of Mandie Joy.