Last week, I dropped Henry off for his ten minutes of preschool and zipped over to Target to pick up socks and underwear for the boys. Just before I headed into the store, I checked e-mail on my phone and saw there was a new post by one of my favorite bloggers, Jen Hatmaker.
(You guys all know her—she’s the one who wrote the blog called Worst End of School Mom Ever.)
What the heck, I thought to myself. I’ll read it now while I have some quiet. So I relaxed back into the driver’s seat, turned the car off, and read her essay in the early afternoon warmth of my minivan.
And it changed my entire day.
Sitting in the warm car, I wiped tears from my eyes as I read about her family’s beautiful and arduous journey to adopt two children from Ethiopia. I read about how time and time again the process stalled, there were delays, roadblocks. Time and time again, Hatmaker and her husband brought their grief, their frustration, their anger to God, and time and time again he answered back:
I am not done yet.
As I wandered the aisles of Target, picking out Batman boxers for Henry and no-show socks for my now fashion conscious fifth-grader, I considered that phrase. I turned it over and over in my mind and felt its full weight in my heart.
I am not done yet.
I know I seem very cavalier about religion, letting Joe drag five uncooperative kids to church while I go to yoga. It’s not because I don’t believe in God or have fled the Catholic Church or I’m faithless. I just don’t like going to Mass because my children embarrass the be-jeezus out of me. (Get it? Be-Jeezus?)
(I’m not sure that’s the kind of joke a religious person would make.)
One time in Buffalo I was talking with a woman at Bishop’s Committee. She was telling me how two years prior she had lost a newborn during a complicated delivery. Remarkably clear-eyed and steady, she explained how devastated they were, how they mourned that teeny boy and the empty nursery, how terrified they were to try again.
But then she told me something I have never forgotten. She told me that God’s plan for us is like a beautifully woven tapestry; silky threads of yarn combining into a cohesive picture.
Except only He sees the front, while we see the back of the tapestry; still beautiful, still colorful, but also full of tangled yarn and unsightly knots.
Although we don’t know what the picture on the front looks like, He does. He knows. Up there in the fluffy clouds of heaven, God is busy weaving and embroidering our life story into a magical work of art. And, as Hatmaker writes, our lowest moments are often the middle of the story, before He is finished selecting the perfect color yarn and connecting it to just the right spot on the canvas.
Because tapestries, in all their richness and splendor, take a long time to weave.
Where, I wondered to myself as I held up a turquoise nightgown with a dancing monkey on it for Rose, was Jen Hatmaker eight years ago? Because I could have used her words of wisdom back then, as we were beginning our own journey, not with adoption, but with a family and autism.
You know, when we were floundering with a silent toddler who raged on the floor all day and rocked in his crib all night. When I was begging God please let him talk just one word make him say mama, when I was asking just let him sleep a few hours tonight and make him stop biting all the kids and help me help us help him.
One phrase in particular resonated with me in Hatmaker’s essay, the part where she talks about how the Ethiopian adoption went through for her daughter, but not her son. Confused and broken, they brought their plea to God, they asked Him how he expected them to bring one child home and not the other, they begged him to right this overlooked wrong. Once again God told them, I am not done yet.
But it was coupled with another message: “You need to go and fight for that boy.”
Though I don’t remember a moment when I exactly heard this message from God myself, I do remember sitting on our tan couch with one-year old Jack in the middle of the night watching Baby Einstein movies realizing that sitting on our tan couch with one-year old Jack in the middle of the night watching Baby Einstein movies was going to get us all exactly nowhere. And the next day I made a call to a little place called Early Intervention.
Without even knowing it, I began to fight for that boy.
Pushing my now-full cart through the store, I thought about how we’ve kept up the fight ever since, but somehow it doesn’t always look like fighting. Instead, it’s unfurling chubby fingers to teach a toddler to point you want a banana show me banana point Jack yes, it’s locking his blue eyes with ours look look in my eye, it’s insisting on the two-arm hug. Fighting, I am learning, is in the details.
Fighting is telling yourself, I am not done yet.
We’re in a good place with Jack right now. You might even say it’s been smooth sailing. He’s wearing his glasses and not fussing too much over the eye patch. He loves his fourth grade teacher, Mr. Hines. He tried a bite of “shushi” the other night off the end of his brother’s chopstick and swam in the lake this summer like a pro and dances to Nicki Minaj in the playroom. The tantrums are shorter, quieter.
And we are breathing. Joe and I are taking cool mouthfuls of air and thinking he looks really good right now and he is smiling every day. For this short while, the fighting is less.
But I know we’re not done. God knows it too.
Standing before the People Magazines and canisters of Ice Cube gum at the cash register in Target, I heard His unmistakable message:
“There will be days when it feels like you and your blue-eyed son are soaring across the sky hand in hand, flying high above meadows blooming with multiplication tables and squealing puppies and license plates. Days when you are winning the battle against rigidity and stimming and math worksheets.
But then there will be other days, days when the rain drives down so hard it will be difficult to lift your eyes or take another step. Together, you and Joe and Jack will clutch each other in the shivering storms of middle school and puberty and why is my brother getting married and I am not.
And when anxiety once again begins to weave around Jack’s ribcage and toes and heart like a cool dry snake, you might think I have given up, that I have turned my back on you and your beautiful boy. But I have not.
I am simply not done yet.”
And to my good and gracious God, I say this: I am not done either. In fact, I am ready. To fight when I need to and win when I can and walk under your colorful umbrella during the heaviest of rains.
I am ready to help build our tapestry.