If I asked you what the above image was, what would your answer be? A toy giraffe? Maybe if you're a parent, you know it by its proper name: Sophie La Giraffe. Either way, you wouldn't be wrong. But this little slobber-covered rubber toy is so much more.
One of the best ways I've found to grow a life that's simple yet still abundant is to appreciate what you already have. Celebrate your victories. Mark your progress. What you use as a marker might surprise you.
I haven't talked much in detail about our difficulty in having a baby, and I'm not sure I will. Suffice to say it took much longer than we ever expected. As every other woman of childbearing age in the Carolinas seemed to be pregnant and as I waited, not so patiently, for my turn, I began to question God and His wisdom.
Being a wife and mother was the only course I'd ever considered for my life, the only "jobs" I'd ever wanted. What would I do if half of that didn't materialize? What was the point of having the most amazing husband, my best friend, perfect father material, if I couldn't give him a child? Why were teens getting pregnant left, right, and center with no way to care for a baby, while we - married, employed, and extremely responsible - struggled to have one?
These thoughts - and worse - circled and looped around my brain. I wish I could say I faced our situation with faith and trust in God's plan, but I didn't. I cried a lot, complained to anyone who would listen, and felt sorry for myself more than I actually probably should have. But despite my unbelief, my insistence that He was wrong and I was right, we were blessed to become pregnant - one year and three months after we started trying.
Everyone was ecstatic, my mother perhaps the most of all. And the first of many gifts she has since given us was Sophie La Giraffe.
I'd seen the giraffe in the baby section in Target, and I'd seen other parents post pictures on Facebook of their child with a Sophie. I was drawn to it because we lived in France in 2015, and I am a sucker for French anything. A French giraffe? Sure, why not?
But the real gift was the note enclosed with Sophie, a note that makes me cry to this day:
We saw this together one day while shopping and you said you wanted one when you had a baby. I went back the next day and bought this (it has been hidden so you did not find it when you came home) because I knew in God's perfect timing you would have that baby. And now I get to bring it out of hiding so we can enjoy it as we wait for that sweet baby. It will be our remembrance to always have faith and hope.
"For this child I have prayed and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart." - 1 Samuel 1:27
I don't think it's a coincidence that my favorite hymn is Come Thou Fount. And lately, the second verse has resonated deeply in my soul:
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by Thy help I've come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
The song is inspired by another verse in 1 Samuel, 7:12: "Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, 'The Lord has helped us to this point.' "
Basically, Samuel took a rock and used it as a visible reminder that God had helped him.
And in the days since that note, as our wish became a pregnancy and my pregnancy became our now-five-month-old son, sweet Sophie has become more than just a chew toy for a teething baby (although she certainly is that!). Instead, she's become a reminder of God's faithfulness to me. She's become my Ebenezer.
When I see her, I'm reminded of a mother who prayed ceaselessly that her baby would have a child of her own. I'm reminded of the wait we endured for our son, and how God shaped my husband and me in the waiting, how we grew closer together and stronger, so much stronger. I'm reminded never to take my son for granted, ever. I waited a long time for him. I know others who have waited longer, and who are still waiting, for their babies. My son's life is a miracle, and a gift. I'm reminded of God's provision for our family, His beautiful divine plan.
I'm sure, the next time I'm waiting for something or the next time I'm facing a challenge, that I will still struggle to trust God's faithfulness. I am just a sinner, like us all, and I don't like waiting. I'm not sure I'll ever do it gracefully, even with God's help.
But I have a reminder of God's faithfulness in the past, and I pray I will look to that when I struggle in the future. Here I raise my Ebenezer - it just happens to be in the shape of a French giraffe.