It was a supernatural thing, and seeing her sent me reeling back in time.
I was suddenly back in my living room in Oklahoma with another little 4-year-old girl I had loved. My niece Tiffany. She stayed with me for a season while my sister was at work and she took her immediate and rightful place into my heart and into my family.
Cynthia had the same haircut as Tiff at that age. They had the same huge brown eyes, precocious nature, and awkward clumsiness, and a huge vocabulary.
And, just like Tiffany, Cynthia's father had walked away, leaving her broken.
I see God's heart so very clearly in this. It is not a coincidence. God knew that I would fall in love with Tiffany. He also knew that many years later a little girl named Cynthia would waltz into it and I would fall in love with her as well.
God knew that Cynthia and her mother would need someone to love them. He chose me for this and knew what it would take to draw my heart to this precious child. The love that had already blossomed in my heart for the first little girl would draw me into a love for the second.
Cynthia spends the night with Paul and I from time to time just like Tiffany did. The last time was a week ago and I still haven't put her bed away.
Last Friday morning Cynthia was unusually quiet as I drove her the 40 miles to school. When I glanced in the rear view mirror to check on her, I also saw Tiffany sitting there, and God's quiet voice laid a word on my spirit. "Remember?" he asked.
Quiet tears ran down my cheeks for the remainder of the drive as God reminded me of the prayers I had prayed for Tiffany over the years. And I suddenly knew that he had heard every cry of her heart. I felt his love for her, and he reminded me of His promises for her life. He reminded me where she'd been and what he'd done. A marriage. New jobs. A new home. Answered prayers, promises kept, new life, redemption, and so much more to come. He reminded me of the words he whispered to me just a few weeks before.
I pulled into the school wiping tears off my cheeks, and as I opened the door for the little girl who sat in the back of my car, my smile was full and deep.
Cynthia's hand was inside mine as we walked to the classroom, but between them, in that small space that held us together was so much more. There was faith for her life inside our hands. There was hope for God's promises over it.
When I got home that night I sent Tiffany a text telling her that God had spoken to me about her life that day. That I felt his love for her, and that he reminded me of his promises for redemption over her life.
Right after I sent the text, I opened an email from my sister, Kay, Tiffany's mother, telling me that Tiff had located her grandmother and grandfather. These were people Tiffany had never met. They were 94 and 97 and she would be meeting with them this week.
My tears began all over again so humbled by God's presence and power. Why am I still so surprised, I wondered. Isn't this who God is? Isn't this what God does? Wasn't he just reminding me of these promises that very morning because he knew how much I loved my niece?
In that moment, God's love for ME overwhelmed my spirit and I heard his quiet promises to me again. "I am your redeemer. I transform hearts and breath new life."
Tiffany was with her father's parents tonight for the very first time.
Can you see my smile? It is full and deep!