Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Innocence, Heartbreak, Determination, a Miracle, and Multiplication (all in one story!)

Let me share a story with you that was 11 years in the making, a story that I shared with a lady at our church on Sunday.  A story that is finally coming to a conclusion because of that conversation:

When I was 16, I stopped talking to my teddy bears.  You're thinking either, "Yeah, so what?" or "You were still talking to your teddy bears at 16?!"  I decided - made an executive decision actually - that I was much too old to still be communicating with my stuff animals.  It was hard, but I did it.

What you have to understand is my stuffed animals were my most FAVOURITE things in the entire world.  If you gave me money to spend on anything I wanted, I would go and buy one.  I wanted to take the very best care I could of them.  My mom had some soft fabric gloves that I took and put on whenever I played with them.  You know why teddy bears are always softer when they are brand new, right?  Hand grease.  Gloves = eternally soft bears.  (Yes, I know, I was very weird).

Part way through this bear craze, when I was 15, I went on a short-term missions trip.  They were collecting donations of toys to bring to the children in need there.  I carefully choose and donated three stuffed animals.  Buttons, a stuffed rabbit.  Dakota, a stuffed husky.  And a bear that I didn't really care that much about as he was little and green and had a soccer ball embroidered on him.

Now I have to tell you the sad part of my story.  The part that I have been still a little bit angry about even 11 years later.  The part that I still need to remind myself to give the benefit of the doubt and extend grace in.  There was a missionary family down there with a bunch of kids.  They were helping us by giving us a "home base" to come to and share at each evening, and were helping connect us with people in need down there.

One evening as I was walking in their house, I happened to look through an open door into their kids room.  There, in the overflowing toy chest of their children were Buttons and Dakota.  Why I didn't say something right then and there, I don't know.  I was young and shy.  But I was sure upset!  Did I mention the toy chest was already overflowing?  I was especially upset when I saw that my little, green soccer bear ended up in the most disgusting, down-and-out, truly needy orphanage that we helped clean, paint and purchase some toys for.  The little bear that I cared nothing about ended up somewhere where it would be truly appreciated, and my two dear stuffed animals ended up in some fortunate kids' already full toy chest.  (I should clarify that these missionaries were working with middle to upper-class people for the most part, so it's not like they were sitting on a treasure trove of "stuff" while people with nothing were all around them).

I need to stop and say something here.  I don't know WHY that happened.  I really don't.  Heck, maybe their kids saw them, loved them and offered to trade in two of their toys into the donation pile so that they could have mine instead.  Maybe they just happened to have two identical stuffed animals.  Maybe they are Christians and missionaries and still, lo and behold, human, and made a bad call like we all do sometimes.  I don't know.  I probably never will.  (Despite the fact that I still have those people's email address and contacted them the other month to ask them for some information for someone I was trying to find.  Really resisting asking them about it!)

Anyway, I got back to Canada grabbed half of my stuffed animals and put them in a duffle bag.  I told God that THESE ones would be for people who really needed them and I was going to make sure of it.  In 11 years, I gave one away to someone in need.  The other 12 teddy bears in that duffle bag stayed there.  They moved from place to place with me.  Even when Nick and I lived in 417 square feet and ate on the floor, that duffle bag was still taking up at least 3 of those square feet!  I had not yet found somewhere for them to go that was truly needed.  The Salvation Army or anything like that just wasn't cutting it for me.

Well, I am pleased to say that they have a home now!  I emailed the pastor's wife at our church and told her my story.  I said that I would love for these critters to find their way back to Mexico where it all began.  She turned around and told me that they were leaving this Saturday and would love to bring them along and personally hand them out to the kids in need!

Our church is connected with a very poor, very remote, very needy village down there.  We help out with a boarding school for children who have barely anything to eat at home and some have hardly a home at all.  They were bringing backpacks down to those 90 children, which children at our church made for them, and were looking for something to put in those backpacks!

I've managed to find some other people who wanted to help out as well, and those kids will be getting my old bears along with a whole treasure of other stuff.  So suffice it to say, I'm sure glad Buttons and Dakota ended up in that toy chest, because now there are a whole lot of other toys taking their place.

Meet (top row left to right):  Cotton Candy, Paws, Joey, Faith, Hope, and Clover; as well as
(front left to right):  Grace, Hope Jr., Clyde, Peace, Noel and Sammy.

(Okay, I will admit that I did really have to think about some of those names to remember them).

Meet SOME of the gang that is accompanying them to Mexico:

If you notice, there is a husky and a bunny on the left.  Appropriate, I think :)

Annnnnddddd someone from my work has graciously offered a whole bag of small stuffed animals to be added to these, which I will hopefully be picking up tomorrow.  So thrilled!

God is a big-picture kind of guy, I think :)  He was probably saying, "Oh Laura, it's okay, just give it 11.5 years and it will all turn out even better for this".  He's pretty amazing!