I’ve been knitting.
It’s what grandmas do. Lovely soft merino wool with blends of silk, kind for baby soft skin. Super-wash, a lesson learned, so that it will stand the ‘wash basket test’ – those fleeting, hurried moments between grabbing the baby wash and piling it into the automatic machine. Hand knitted merino does not fare well at this mad dash between baby caring moments.
So I’m knitting: baby-soft merino super-wash. You see how considered & careful I am as I approach this honoured task, knitting for my granddaughter. You see I love her. I have some experience in this; some history in this creativity, this labour of love, this joyous undertaking. In quite moments, decades ago, I knit for my own children.
And so I am knitting. And as I knit I talk with my heavenly Father. I meditate on His words – that He knits us together in our mother’s womb; that we are fearfully & wonderfully made; that He has plans for us – to give us hope & a future. So I pray for the child I knit for.
As He knits, I pray. As I pray, He knits.
My musings took an unexpected turn, a destiny not looked for. At my daughter’s 20 week scan our little one’s diagnosis was that her life was incompatible with life outside the womb. Words cannot describe the silence in response to this. The deafening roar in my soul. The heart ache. The heart break.
So my offer to my daughter changes: a hand knitted shawl becomes the offer of a shroud. We would bathe her with our tears, wrap her in love and hand her to the loving arms of our Father in heaven, who is also here – present on earth – in our here & now. If the only way for our precious little one to be in heaven was this route, then we would walk that path as a family and give her in peace. Shalom. Our precious granddaughter, Shalome.
For me there has been no great theological dilemma. God is love. He loves her. Endlessly, sacrificially, without borders. He has created her – for His glory – to know Him. But oh my heart weeps for what could have been. As I watch my older grandchild I see what I will never see for this precious babe – the one I long for, hope for, pray for.
God is Creator God. Everything is possible, a miracle would be indescribable. But if this is the path how do we see a loving God in this? By looking through His eyes; through the perspective of eternity. The here & now is just that. Here. Now. Then gone. But eternity – now that will last forever. And in this we see different values, we are enabled differently. Differently-abled.
So by week 22 I had a new knitting project. An intarsia blanket pattern – pink with eight white hearts in a row. And as I knit I pause, I pray, I weep. And I take over … the table is my workbench, set out with containers (cups, bowls, whatever I can find in this art of improvisation) each with a mini ball of pink or white wool. The plan – to be contained, organised, untangled so that this difficult task can be completed well. Gosh, this is ambitious, more difficult than I had imagined. And as I knit, I talk to my heavenly Father & I compare notes on our different creativity & I acknowledge my lack of everything in the light of His everything. The comparison is beyond laughable, it borders on the irreverent & yet my heart reaches out and touches the divine.
And so I labouriously & painstakingly knit. This is a bigger job than I had imagined. Do I ever think of actually regretting the undertaking of it? At last, the hearts are complete, the intricate border is done and I sit back and admire my work of art; my work of heart. Then I see it. I made assumptions, didn’t read the pattern correctly and my hearts are all enlarged! Not so pretty, so defined or so delicate. They are wrong. But I cannot contemplate untangling or unpicking, so I carry on. And I continue my conversation with God.
“Lord” I say, “I’ve made a mistake”. And as I pause, and ponder, I hear the Lord say right back into my heart “But I don’t make mistakes.”
And Oh Lord, Your words bring life to my soul. They lighten the burden. Give rest to my weary heart. You are in this. You are in the here and now, making it a moment of preparation for eternity.
And so Lord I put my hopes and dreams aside and say “Your will be done”. I trust in Your love. I lean on Your strength. I will see this differently – in the light of the Eternal, knowing You see the end from the beginning. Trusting that You will make blossom grow and hearts flourish because on this I stand secure – that you love Shalome, my precious granddaughter, more than hearts can ever know.
POST SCRIPT: I began writing this reflection when our daughter had had her 20 week pregnancy scan with the devastating news that our granddaughter was diagnosed with alobar holoprosencephaly – a severe developmental abnormality of the brain. At this point the prognosis was that she could possibly die in the womb but certainly wouldn’t survive after birth. Some weeks later, after further investigation, with a diagnosis of semi-lobar, to the best of their knowledge the doctors predicted that our little one would be in a vegetative state, unable to communicate, she wouldn’t feed or sleep.
Not knowing how long we would have this precious one with us I encouraged my daughter & son-in-law to name her. They call her Shalome – meaning peace. The whole family felt God’s peace. As only God can time it, a few days later Patrick (our vicar) spoke on shalom – He is our Peace (Ephesians 2:14), completely unaware of our naming of her.
Shalome is now 3 months old. From birth she has been able to feed (no stomach tubes required); has jumped at noises (passed hearing test with Health Visitor 100%); tracked light with her eyes. She sleeps beautifully, our daughter has eased her into a lovely regime – so she also has understanding of this. Recently she started smiling, she babbles & makes those darling baby noises, she copies facial expressions. Each step is such a celebration of God’s goodness.
We still don’t know what the future holds for her or for us as a family. But we delight in God’s goodness & enjoy every cuddle & smile.