At Cole's 3rd birthday, his favorite gift was a stuffed trout that he received from Michael and Kristin. He named it Shelf. That was four years ago, and though different stuffed animals have been favorites at one time or another, Shelfy has always been in the top three. So around the time Sean was born, when I realized that I hadn't seen Shelf for awhile, I was worried. When Cole said that he hadn't seen him for awhile either, I was even more worried.
We started praying every night that Shelf would be found. Sort of trivial, I know, but this is spirituality at a six-year-old's level. Cole's friend was lost and we were grieving. We hoped that he would be returned safely, so we prayed. And prayed, and prayed, and prayed.
Months went by. Then, a few weeks ago, as I was tucking the boys into bed, Cole said, "Mom, I'm almost ready to give up hope for Shelfy. I'm starting to believe that we're never going to see him again. I don't think we should pray for him anymore." Knowing that their bedroom/playroom is an abyss and that there were still some places we hadn't uncovered, I told him, "That's okay if you want to give up on Shelfy, but I'm not ready to lose hope yet. I still believe that we'll find him someday. So you don't have to pray for him anymore, but I'm still going to..." Cole agreed that we should continue asking God just a little bit longer for Shelfy's safe return.
On Father's Day, Justin was talking to his dad in Portland and got online to send his dad a photo we took of Justin holding all four of the boys at once:
...when Justin's dad received the photo, he emailed us back....and lo and behold, at the end of his email, he said, randomly, "we found a stuffed trout at our house, and thought it might be Cole's..."
I was absolutely beside myself. The last time we were in Portland was August. It has been nearly a year since Shelf was home. After all this time, God answered our prayer! I began stalking the mailman until the fateful day that an oversized envelope appeared in our box. Acting nonchalant (but frantically pulling out my camera), I tossed it to Cole and told him he had a package....
God absolutely heard our prayer. All of our many, many prayers. I'm so thankful that we didn't find Shelf right away, and that we were forced to wait all those months, because I know now that Cole will never forget the day that Shelfy came home. He has surety now that the Lord heard him, and answered him.....even though the answer didn't come quickly. And I am so blessed, at my deepest core, that he has this foundational truth within him now. I can't imagine that he will ever ask in faith for anything the rest of his life, without remembering this moment, when his God heard him.