A miscarriage can turn the joy of pregnancy into a harrowing ordeal. More than the womb longs for healing. Today, I was reminded…
My wife, Penney, and I were making the hours-long drive home. I attended the 2019 Oregon Connections Telecommunications Conference in Ashland, Oregon, and now we were headed back to Lincoln City. Penney was crocheting a cute little elephant to pass the time as I drove. While I was at the conference, she had gone exploring in the quaint little shops across the street from the beautiful and peaceful Lithia Park. The shops were an eclectic mix of American images — antique stores and craft stores, stores that sold cheap knick-knacks and expensive, breathtaking art, bookstores and drugstores, coffee shops with artisan pastry, and ice cream shops with sweet sprinkles. She found the elephant in a crinkly plastic bag, hanging on a hook, looking at her and smiling coyly.
The elephant seemed to wink at her. “Crochet me!”
“Oh-ho,” she replied, “I’ll buy you, and crochet you, and then I’ll use the pattern to crochet your brothers and sisters! I know some children who want to love you very much!”
And that’s how it came to be, that I was driving home, and Penney was beside me crocheting the elephant’s gray bottom, with the pattern in her lap. But then, she stopped crocheting, and studied the pattern carefully. Everything was fine until the pattern started to taper. She said, “It’s a good thing this isn’t the first pattern I’ve ever read. The instructions are a bit odd.”
Some time later she said, “I did it! The count came out right!”
Now, I want you to understand this next part from a man’s perspective. She’s crocheting. She just told me that the count came out right. I have no idea what that means. I don’t know what to say, but I try to be a good husband, and this was obviously my cue to speak. “Oh?” I replied. Apparently, it was an acceptable and perspicacious response, because she answered as if I had contributed meaningfully to my part of the conversation.
She said, “The last row had 48 stitches, and this row is supposed to be down to 30 stitches, and it came out right.” She was clearly pleased. I’ll remember this, and add it to my store of crocheting knowledge. If the count comes out right, it’s a good thing, and helps maintain a cheerful mood.
Since it was my turn to contribute meaningfully again, I said, “That’s great!”
Then Penney said, “Shirley told me, ‘Always trust the pattern.’”
“Shirley” is a reference to Shirley Summers. More than forty years have passed since we last saw Shirley, but she played such an important and precious role in our lives that to this day only her first name is needed. We both know who Shirley is. Shirley taught my wife to crochet, and saved her sanity, and healed her broken heart, in the process.
It happened like this.
I was in the Navy. I had finished a year of electronics school at the Naval Air Technical Training Command in Millington, Tennessee. Then I was assigned to the Avionics Shop at the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department in Corpus Christi, Texas. When we first arrived in Corpus Christi, we rented a place in a mobile home on Waldron Road. Between the mobile home park and the Naval Base we saw a little church — Waldron Road Baptist Church. We went there the first Sunday after we moved, and immediately we were welcomed like family. For the next three years, that was our church home. Brother Tom Summers was the Pastor, and his wife, Sister Shirley, played piano and mothered everyone.
It was during those years that Penney and I agreed that we were ready to start a family. A missed period, a doctor visit, a test — yes! We’re pregnant!
But it didn’t last. Something was wrong. More doctor visits, more tests — “I’m sorry. Your pregnancy wasn’t viable. You’ve had a miscarriage.”
As a man, as a husband, I will never know — I will never, ever know — all that Penney went through. I know that it was awful. I know that it was painful. I know that it was indescribable. But I will never truly know.
That’s where Shirley came in. Shirley was God’s healer for my unimaginably broken wife. She said to Penney, “You and I are going to sit together and I’m going to teach you to crochet.”
Doctors give you medicine by sticking a needle in your arm, or they have you drink some syrup, or swallow a pill. That’s how they get the healing inside you. Shirley gave Penney medicine by having her touch yarn. Shirley’s prescription applied the healing to the yarn, and it soaked through the skin of Penney’s fingertips, and worked its way to her heart, and mended the brokenness there, as well as it can ever be mended.
That’s why the memories are so deep and so strong. That’s why only her first name is needed. Shirley.
Shirley said, “Always trust the pattern.”
And today, more than forty years later, driving for hours from Ashland to Lincoln City, I understood the full and true meaning of Shirley’s words.
Always trust the pattern.
Do you see? It’s not just about getting the stitch count right on an elephant’s bottom.
It’s about how God gets our lives right.
In the Bible, we see the story of Jesus come to life. Through Jesus, we see God. Jesus has shown us the pattern that God has for our lives — my life, your life. And when we trust God’s pattern, the count comes out right. When we make up our own pattern, when we think we can do better, we end up with something misshapen.
When we let God work out his pattern in our life — he makes something beautiful.
Right now, that gray elephant bottom in Penney’s hands doesn’t look like much. But we know what it’s becoming. We know its future. This is what’s happening with you, right now, in God’s tender, loving hands.
Always trust God’s pattern.