Lost Outside

Lost Outside

It was all so perfect. We’d planned it for months! And as we hoped, the surprise brought more unfettered joy than I’d seen in a child for a long time.

She asked, “Is Christmas, um…nexterday?” As a four-year-old, she was searching for the word “tomorrow.”

“Yes,” I said, “Tomorrow, and tonight is Christmas Eve!”

Santa BagWe sat around the dinner table in the soft glow of candlelight. When I finished eating, I took some garbage out to the garage and snuck around to the front door to leave a small Santa bag on the doormat. Then I knocked hard three times, before running back through the garage into the house.

My granddaughter nearly jumped out of her pajamas.

“Someone’s here!” Her mother played along with enthusiasm.

“What! What’s going on?” I said.

“There was a knock!” she said to me, half-scared, half-excited. She wiggled down from her father’s arms, and we tiptoed to the door. I unlocked it and slowly opened the door a crack. No one was there. Only the Santa Bag! She shrieked with delight as Santa had brought an early present the same way last Christmas.

ErnieInside, wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with a red ribbon…was a 2½-inch figurine known as Ernie. The squeals and jumping and twirling that followed showed her joy, because Ernie had been lost for several years.

This was not just a child receiving a toy. It held far greater meaning to her. For the past three years, she’s had such fun with a Sesame Street Play House and all its familiar characters. I’ve never seen a toy have such play value. But early on, her family took the set on a beach outing, and after that, Ernie was lost.

Sesame EggcartonFor the next two and a half years the other seven Sesame Street friends went on many adventures. They had wild rides around the living room in an egg carton bus. Sesame Sledding

They went sledding down cardboard slopes. Many had to be rescued with a rope tied to a basket from “the raging river.” They’ve been washed countless times in bathtub “waterfalls.”

Sesame CampingThey all went camping with Kleenex blankets and pillows and celebrated Christmas by going to “church” to hear the whole story of Jesus’ birth.

Still, my granddaughter talked about how much she missed Ernie.

I explained to her how some things are “lost inside.” Those items can usually be found. But when something is “lost outside,” well—it’s hard to say.

A few months ago, while searching on the Internet, I found a way to replace Ernie without buying the whole set. And Santa became the means to bring Ernie home. My granddaughter’s joy was a beautiful thing.

Whos around the Christmas treeWhoville God with usOn the night before the night before Christmas, my granddaughter and I watched Dr. Seuss’ cartoon movie, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I could feel the tension in her body as the Grinch took all the presents, the decorations, and even the Christmas “roast beast” dinner. It was unthinkable to a child watching the story for the first time. Yet in the end, the Whos all gathered in a circle to sing about the intangible part of Christmas—the love of family, friends, and community, and even implied the spiritual mystery of “God With Us.”

She got the message. I know, because this is how she set up her Sesame Street friends after Ernie came home.

Ernie’s return and the Grinch’s heart change, really point to biblical themes. God cares about the one who is lost outside. He leaves the ninety-nine to search for the one. And there is great joy in heaven and on earth when that one is brought home and returned to the circle of love.

And so I saw a glimpse of “the joy set before us” in our granddaughter’s delight on Christmas Eve.

Is there someone in your life who is lost outside? I encourage you not to lose heart over them. Your prayers and love matter.

Or maybe you’ve been in a faraway-from-God routine, busy with life—or worse, if you feel disappointed with God. But God is waiting for you. He understands you and knows where to find you. You are not lost outside to Him.

Try this to jumpstart your connection to God: Write down three questions that have weighed on your heart. Then ask God to answer you with a single word…a word that you can look up in the dictionary for its expanded meaning…a word that can unlock something…a word that can open the dialogue with God that you’ve been needing.

Let Him touch you with wisdom, encouragement, guidance and love. It might take awhile, but wait for it.

Tell me what you think…


  1. susan, i LOVE this suggestion. 3 questions…i’m on my way!
    i also love your ernie replacement mission. this is why our grandchildren need us and why when our mothers told us to “Act your age…” it was important not to.
    hmmm, maybe your mom never said that to you, though.
    it seemed to be my mother’s repeated out loud mantra aimed at me, for years. what can i say?
    except in a complete change of subject, i thank god for you. very often.
    suzee B