A few years ago now my daughter lost her most precious toy, Winston, whilst out on a bike ride. The next ten days of our lives were completely and utterly dedicated to ensuring Winston’s safe return to the family home.
Winston is a penguin made from corduroy who came into our lives on my little girls first birthday and has been a close member of the family ever since. He goes everywhere we go, he sees everything we see, he shares in the good times and he shares in the bad times and he sticks with us no matter what. That is until one fateful day in February 2013 when he went missing.
We had been enjoying one of Erin’s first stabiliser free bike rides around the park when she unfortunately glided into a muddy puddle that covered both her, Winston and her bike from top to bottom. As Rob pulled her from her muddy bike wreckage, she arose looking like something that had fallen into the bog of eternal stench, true Labyrinth style! Rob, first on scene and always great in a crisis, waited with Erin as Seb’s buggy and I raced to catch up, carrying Erin in one arm and the bike in the other. I half expected him to sprout pink locks and horns and start calling the rocks to our aid! Instead he deposited Erin with me and ran into the woods (the quickest root back to the car, not because he is in fact Ludo, I was only joking!). So I quickly stripped Erin’s muddy clothes off her and wrapped her up in my coat, whilst administering cuddles and promises of hot chocolate as soon as we got home. Rob brought the car round and we all piled in and returned to creature comforts (hot bath, hot fire, hot chocolate) and left our troubles behind us. That is…….until bedtime, when Erin called down from the bathroom, “Can you bring Winston up please Mummy”. “No problem,” I called back as I got up to go and find him. Thirty minutes later and he was nowhere to be seen. Erin spent this thirty minutes huddled on the bottom stair looking devastatingly near to tears. When I could think of nowhere else to find him I sat down with her and asked her if she could remember the last time she had seen him. The answer? “At the park”. Oh dear. It was now 7.30pm in the midst of a Scottish winter (which by the way, means that even by torchlight, firelight and moonlight, we weren’t likely to see anything!) and the chances of finding Winston were pretty slim. Nevertheless Daddy and a friend who was over for the evening went down to the park to search for him. Sadly they came home empty handed. For the next ten days I went to the park every single day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, to look for Winston. Even I, a mum in her thirties, found the loss of Winston hard to bear. Yet each day I went and searched and each day I came home empty handed.
Now times like this are very important to me as a Christian Mummy because it’s when I encourage my children to ask God for help. In any crisis that I might have myself, my first instinct is to pray or to ask someone else to pray for me. It is a source of comfort and ease as I shoulder my burden into Gods capable hands and I would love my children to know the same comfort as they grow. So my instant response, after offering chocolate and marshmallows, is to suggest we pray.
I suggested it to Erin the first night Winston was gone and she looked a little uncertain. I said that I would say a prayer that we would find Winston and would she like to as well, although I explained she didn’t need to if she didn’t want to. She looked thoughtful and eventually said that she wanted to say a prayer. I said she could say it in her head if she wanted to but she said she wanted to say it out loud. This was mine and Erin’s first experience of properly saying a prayer together and it was what got us both through the next ten days. She was determined that God would bring Winston back, and after that first night when she was so worried and sad, she ceased her worrying and her sadness. She prayed everyday that Winston would come home to us and went about her little life as if everything was fine. Now this might sound standard behaviour from a four year old whose lost a penguin, but let me tell you now that this was not standard behaviour at all! Once we lost Winston for an hour and I honestly thought Erin might never stop crying. My prayers came fast and reverently during that hour I can tell you! However, as she practiced praying herself a genuine calm and gentleness settled upon her. It was really quite remarkable.
But after ten days even I, fervent prayer and pleader, was getting a little uncertain about the outcome of this situation. That little doubtful voice kept nagging at me, “What if we don’t find him? What then God?” So I arranged for a friend to have the kids on the afternoon of the tenth day so that Olive (the dog) and I could go and drag search the park. Standing in the middle of the car park I looked at the path that each day I set off along and closed my eyes and said to God, “Please show me where Winston is.” I opened them, turned face about and went in the complete opposite direction down a path I have never even noticed before, let alone walked along. It took me into a little clearing and my feet had only been on the path for four or five steps when Winston appeared right before my very eyes, propped up at the foot of a tree, nestled amongst a cushion of leaves. I rushed over and picked him and was so delighted and joyful that I then rather loudly broke the good news to Olive! He wasn’t even wet or dirty. In fact he looked like he had been sat having a little tea party for the last week and a half, whilst I slogged around the park.
As you can imagine I had a pretty delighted little girl at home that night once again. And it wasn’t just Erin who was delighted either. We all felt the peace that settled upon our little home that evening.
I’ve pondered this story many a time over the last few years (I don’t think it will ever leave me), and I have often wondered at that peace and strength that Erin found during what was such a hard time for her. Over the last few days as I have wondered about what to write today, this story kept popping into my head and I think the reason for this is because this story is about hope. Erin found peace and she found calm because she found hope. By praying to God and leaving her troubles with Him, hope was planted inside of her and it did its wonderful work. Not only that but it wasn’t just for those ten days either. She decided two years ago (eighteen months after Winston’s disappearance) to be baptised and so my vicar from university came to stay with us and baptised her in the river that runs along next to our house. Some people were shocked at a 6 year old deciding to be baptised but I completely understood where it came from, because Erin has a hope about her and in her that is beautiful and which shines like sunlight. I see it in her everyday.
And this brings me to what I wanted to say today:
Every child has a right to believe.
To believe in what I hear you ask? To believe in whatever brings them joy and happiness. Maybe its Father Christmas. Maybe its the Toothfairy. Maybe its God. And who are we to stand in their way. It is one of their very own human rights. They should be allowed to hold onto their innocence and their joy for as long as they can, for as long as they want. But as we know from what we see in the news each day and as you can find out on every page of this blog, innocence and joy are being taken away from the children of our world each day, each hour, each minute. In fact, its almost each second. Every 26 minutes a child gets sold into human trafficking. Every 26 seconds. Do those children have hope? Do they have joy as they get sold into prostitution and slavery?
We need to fight for these children. We need to ensure that they get to wake up each morning and get to believe in pixies and in elves, in fairies and in fairy dust, in God and in His Angels.