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.

View All Posts

17 Responses to “Addy”

  1. Cindy on

    Beautiful, Sara. Thank you for sharing not only the beautiful heart of the Father for his children, but also the struggles of motherhood. I love that the Lord took your “weak moment” and used it to show His beauty, His goodness, His sweet, sweet care. Thank you!

  2. jackie on

    this is so helpful!! I was needing some encouragement that the Lord is near and hears even our small prayers. thanks, sara! 🙂

  3. Jenni on

    I love reading your posts, they are so encouraging and He is using you to strengthen my my spirit. I recently found you page along with Mandie and Christina’s. Ive been following Katie Davis for about a year or so now, and some how came across you all… God’s work I do believe. Its neat to see this like “blogging family” that is all in love with our Maker and in it for His glory. Ive never been to Uganda, but Ive been to Kenya for two summers now and returning this coming summer as newly weds with my husband to stay for a year and then how ever long after that God intends to keep us there or where ever he places us. Its been such a blessing to read all of ya’ll’s blogs. Got a lot read from 9pm last night to 3am this morn. Just couldn’t stop reading. But Thank you so so much for sharing.

  4. Katie on

    God uses your story and your words to continually speak truth into my life. Thank you for the reminder that he hears our prayers. We are in the middle of custody and adoption hearings and there is always the “what if”. God used this tonight to calm my fears.

    Be blessed.

  5. Erika Chapman on

    I LOVE THIS!!! How cool the way God loves to make us feel like His favorite, b/c we ARE just that!! And how amazing and precious that He is already working in that way in her sweet life to lavish His love on her heart…and remind her that she is His!! Thank you for sharing this story:)

  6. Jodi on


    I have a really cool God story related to this very POST!!!! God is on the move and I am so glad. I am going to send you an email ; )

    I am nannying for two families right now; 6 girls in total. Ages 18 months- 12 years
    EDEN, Lorien, LILY, Meg, Clara, Ellenor are their names and needless to say American girl dolls are the dolls of choice.



  7. Kim on

    Such a beautiful reminder that our Father does indeed love to give good gifts to us, even more than we can imagine. Thanks for sharing.

Recent Blog Posts

How To Keep Your Heart Alive

At sixteen it all seemed so obvious. You either had a cross around your neck and a Bible in your locker, or a drink in your hand on the weekends. Back then, it was follow Jesus or party. My best friend and I slid each other Bible verses on scraps of paper in between class, just to remind one another…

The Illusion of Fame

My sister was on homecoming court two years in a row. For many, that means nothing, but when you grow up in middle America (where the best of life happens under the Friday night lights), homecoming court makes celebrities out of seventeen year-olds. I was in the seventh grade then. And I knew I wanted to follow her. This was…

Hidden {… but not unseen}

Sometimes you need to live a moment three, or four … or seven times, before you see that it’s purposed. We were 23 minutes late for the party that was only planned to last for two hours. I know, because I counted each minute that passed and had eyes only for the digital clock in my car at every single…

Why the Times You Feel Unseen by the World May be the Best Times of Your Life

“He said He loves me, Mommy,” my daughter Hope told me as I tucked her in, her words whispered with her hand to her mouth and cupped around my ear. Apparently, it was a secret. And I remembered her first dance recital, not long after we’d adopted her. She had practiced her routine in and out of class for a…

At 40, What I Would Say to My Twenty Year-Old Self

My diploma was still in an unopened manilla envelope on my apartment desk when I stood in front of a crowd of 300 sets of smiling eyes to tell them about what I’d committed to doing for the rest of my life. Though I didn’t say it in so many words, at twenty-two I knew I wanted to change the…