Yesterday was a hard day. In the same way that every day has been a hard day, but a little bit worse. I had a big work deadline during the day and a remembrance service for the baby in the evening. Work was stressful, I got home late, Curly couldn’t even be bothered to say hello when I got home (oh that moody pup can cut me!), and the remembrance ceremony was more than just hard — it was disappointing and untouching and all it did was make me cry more tears without any of the healing I had hoped for.
I’m sure it wasn’t the service, I’m sure it was me. I’m sure it was the bitter shell that’s building up around the outside of my tender heart. There were so many families there. Families with kids. And I wasn’t prepared for that. I expected a room full of other sad women and while it probably was actually a room full of sad women on some level, my eyes could only see something that made me feel jealous and angsty and ungrateful. I felt ugly from the inside out.
But before that, between my bummer of a non-greeting from Curls and the short drive to the hospital chapel for the service, I opened some mail and sat down to the table for a quick bowl of chili and walked through the park with my pup on a leash. Though hurried, I felt like I had a couple moments of clarity where some big stuff started to coalesce…
We’d been gone for a week with the mail on hold and Monday was a federal holiday, so the stack that arrived on Tuesday was kind of enormous. I studiously ignored the multiple insurance EOBs (people talk about children being expensive — non-children are too and it hurts quite a bit to open those up and see the bill for a broken heart continue to grow and grow) and other bits of business-y junk and not junk, but kept aside a letter that made a rattling sound from my friend Adriane and a heavy envelope from my Auntie Pam.
For a second I thought that maybe Adriane, realizing my appreciation for the dramatic, love of all things microbiology, and need for rest (maybe in a coma), might have sent me some anthrax spores and a guaranteed trip to an isolation suite in a hospital in Minneapolis near her where she would be my only visitor. She’s tiny and adorable and would be really hilarious to the out-of-body-coma-me seeing her in a big biohazard suit. It was such a good idea, but I was disappointed on the spores end. What Adriane had actually sent was a really, really beautiful note and an incredibly thoughtful gift of forget-me-not seeds. Forget-me-nots. Because she knows I’ll want to remember.
My Auntie Pam (the reason I’ll always insist on being an auntie and never an aunt) also sent a beautiful note and gift of remembrance — an angel ornament for our Christmas tree. But she also sent me two ridiculously exciting and probably haunted books she picked up at a little used bookstore across the street from the super-haunted Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, located very near to my best cousin and his best wife’s house. (To be clear, Mike only has one wife, I don’t mean to imply that there are multiple and that Christina is the best — she just earned the title of “best” when she married my best cousin.) She had thought of me, really me and my gone forever baby and the things I love, even while she was there visiting her own newest (and probably best (see above)) grandbaby. More tears.
After I opened the mail, I sat down to my finally-cool-enough-to-touch chili and re-read the words of Shauna Niequist about grace that I had already read once in the morning. I started reading Savor again on Monday morning. I had put Shauna away for a while, unable to bare her musings that sometimes (often) include family and motherhood in a way that I just couldn’t hear for a minute. But Monday and Tuesday were both about grace and powerfully so.
I re-read those passages and looked up from my bowl. My eyes and my mind flashed around the kitchen at the clutter on the counter top and table that I had been (jerkily, ungratefully, offensively… but probably somehow protectively) referring to as “pity presents” and they suddenly weren’t that any more. They were, all of them, tangible reminders of so much love.
I finished my chili and picked up Curly’s leash for a quick walk through the park. My mind turning over and over and over in the cool air. Pieces clicking together even as I bent over to bag up dog poop (because I’m a super responsible pet owner, even when distracted) and threw it away.
I was mad at God and the words “God has a plan,” the words I’ve heard so many times since the middle of September, felt like acid crawling through my insides. Because if God has a plan and his plan includes infertility, the months and years of waiting for nothing, then God is kind of an a-hole. And if God has a plan, and his plan is to take my baby, to prevent me from being a mother, to punish me or to hurt me or to cause me pain, then God is a jerk and I hate him. But that didn’t really fit for me because if God stops the hearts of babies, then God must also be responsible for whipping up the atmosphere into the frenzy of tornadoes and hurricanes. God must also slam tectonic plates together in a way that causes earthquakes and tsunamis. God’s blueprints must include untold levels of death and destruction. I don’t think I believe in that God.
Instead, deep down, I still really, really wanted to believe what I’ve said so many times. That God is good. Always. No matter what. And to believe that, I have to believe that God is love and only love.
And, bag of poop in hand, I realized I do believe that. Always. Because in addition to God, I also believe soundly in biology and physics. Meteorology and plate tectonics. Love doesn’t change biology, it can’t stop gravity from happening. Love can’t seed a rain cloud or move the winds. Love can’t shift the earth’s crust, make mountains or waves. But love can and does, as I have soundly witnessed, stir people’s hearts to do amazing things in the wake of unpleasant biology, physics, meteorology, plate tectonics, or any other unchangable earth-fact.
Love sends words and notes and gifts of comfort and remembrance (i.e. not pity presents and I’m sorry for ever even thinking it). Love is the reason anyone ever healed or rebuilt, from the (universally speaking) small miscarriage to the large floods of New Orleans and earthquakes of Nepal. When these things that cannot be helped, by God or anyone else, happen, when our lives are shattered, God is love and love is there to help us pick up the pieces, to inspire others to grace and compassion and goodness in ways that were unknown before the break.
And I hate that and love that for the same reason that Shauna Niequist wrote about yesterday, October 13th, when she said:
“I don’t really want to need grace… I prefer to believe instead that the math works: there are good things about me, but they’ve checked the math and because I’m funny enough, they can let go of how terrible I look most days, or if I’m interesting enough, the fact that my house is dirty isn’t such a big deal. But that kind of math is specifically anti-grace. Grace isn’t about netting out on the right side of things.
If arithmetic is numbers, and if algebra is numbers and letters, then grace is numbers, letters, sounds, and tears, feelings and dreams. Grace is smashing the calculator, and using all the broken buttons and pieces to make a mosaic.”
It doesn’t have to make sense or to work out mathematically. Which is what I’ve been trying to do. To account for the heartbreak of infertility and miscarriage as something deserved and the kindness of others that, since not earned, must be pity. The God I believe in, the love he is and inspires, the grace, compassion, goodness, and even grief, that necessarily follows, just doesn’t work that way.
So what about Under the Tapestry? My whole premise — the idea that God is weaving a design that, no matter what it looks like from down here, is really, really beautiful “up” there. From the other side, whatever that might mean.
Well. Apparently in August of 2013, I had an idea, and it was a good one, but even I didn’t completely understand my own words — the bedrock on which I based all the rest.
I still believe that God is the weaver. But what this experience has taught me is that he is not the spinner too. Life produces threads, sometimes we color them ourselves — sometimes we do even more than just color them. Sometimes we shear the sheep, clean the wool, card, spin, and dye it all ourselves before we hand it over to the weaver. Sometimes life does it for us — biology, meteorology, physics, time. God just (not really just, but I think you know what I mean) incorporates those strands into our tapestry. Weaving them all together with the love that he is, into the design we cannot know on this side of eternity. A love so big and broad that it spreads out to all the people in a way that seems huge, but is really only a tiny glimpse.
Love begets compassion and kindness. Love begets grace and forgiveness. Love even begets grief and hurt. All those things stem from love and God is love. Love. Not a genie, puppeteer, or master of the physical universe. Not an architect, blueprint in hand. Not in my mind, anyway. He can work on our hearts, souls, and minds… but not physically. I really don’t believe that that’s how it works.
As hard as it is for me to wrap my mind around the above, it’s even harder to write about. Honestly, and not humbly, it takes some courage to put my thoughts about something as big and contentious as the idea of God out in space knowing that someone could hate it; will hate it. Especially when my thoughts aren’t exactly reverent (e.g., “then God is a jerk and I hate him”). While I was in Hawaii, though, my friend Dawn (bringer of light — her name is perfection) demanded I listen to a podcast (my first ever, truth be told, which is surprising for an Audible fan like myself, don’t you think?). Dawn has often sent me inspiring and powerful and thought provoking things to read and I’ve never been disappointed, but she has never ever demanded anything. And this time she demanded, so I listened. The voice on the line (Thomas Keller — here) was talking about how when we express our emotions and our questions, even the angry and fearful ones, it’s a prayer. A prayer for understanding, acceptance, peace, grace. Considering my general opinion of myself as an absolute crap do-er of prayer, this was music to my ears. I may not be good at on-the-spot holy father thou arts and such, but confused, out loud emoting is definitely my kind of thing. So let’s chalk this up to a prayer of that type. I’m confused and I’m hurting and I need desperately to better understand God in a way that brings me comfort rather than anger, because I don’t think anger is the point. And it’s certainly not a healthy place to stay. I wish mightily to be a person who is comforted by a well-timed bible verse or a phrase like “God has a plan,” but I’m not. I don’t find a lot of meaning in platitudes, no matter how true, probably for the same reason I don’t like small talk. It has to be deeper for me. Nearly 2000 words deeper plus 217 other posts, I guess, all to get to the place where I started:
The dark threads are as needful
In the weavers skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern he has planned
So I guess God is good. Always. Even still. Because how can love ever be bad in a world that can be so hard?