The city that I grew up in had an undisputedly amazing toy store. It might as well have been a hundred stories high and just as wide. To walk in the front door was to be transported. Kites hung from the ceiling. Color and the smell of imagination and plastic overwhelmed. And in the back there was a glass room filled with dolls which held captive the hopes and dreams of elementary school girls across town. As days ticked slowly towards my birthday, my mom took me to look at the dolls. We both knew why we were there, although I don’t think either of us spoke of it. I poured over the frilly-dressed choices, tasting the excitement I expected on the big day. I would open the signature shiny red box to find the doll of my dreams. I chose carefully, as if all of life hung on this one moment, which of course it did. All I remember of the doll I chose was that she had soft skin and I eagerly anticipated snuggling her close in my bed and whispering all my secrets.
My birthday did bring the shiny red box. But inside there was a different doll. Her head, arms and legs were made of hard plastic. She didn’t seem very squeezable or interested in secrets. I was heart-broken and I think I said so. Now as a parent I wonder at the details of story. Had I chosen a very expensive doll? Was it out-of-stock? Maybe. Or maybe when my mom and dad returned to make the purchase they decided on one that was better. My parents have a history of giving amazing gifts, half of which don’t really seem that cool in the moment. Growing up most of the things they chose weren’t highlighted in Saturday morning commercials. They weren’t on the Christmas lists of my friends. They didn’t come with batteries.
I named the doll Sarah and took her out to the playhouse so we could get acquainted. Turned out she could keep a secret and was just the right size for wearing my own baby clothes. She was a faithful friend in childhood, waited out my adolescence and took seriously her job as night sentry in the doll-sized rocker my parents hauled up to celebrate the birth of our firstborn. Just the other day I saw my second daughter chewing happily on baby doll Sarah’s plastic face, and I smiled. It is good that I don’t always get what I want. It is good that my heavenly father knows what I need.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents- if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a snake? Or course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:7-11