Grant me the serenity…

I think it wise to begin with music, which has soothed my soul and taken me through to the end of this post. It’s a heavy one. You have my permission to leave at any point.

I wrote it for the Creative Buzz Hop, which sent round the pretty prompt of ‘Serenity’ this week. And I thought “Oh goody – something I can get on board with – I could do with more serenity in my life, especially right now”. But my mind had other plans…

I’d warrant that most of us know the beginning lines of the famous Serenity prayer, right? It gets printed out onto so many items of tat, and placed into the frame with enough ‘awe inspiring’ images to be well engrained into our collective Western consciousness.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

And BOOM! We’re inspired. We’re comforted. We feel better because we know that serenity’s not something we can expect to achieve without a bit of striving – that it doesn’t come naturally.

But wait a while – read the rest…

Living one day at a time. Okay, I’m down with that. It’s quite necessary sometimes. Living one hour at a time is also a ‘thing’. Or an action at the time.

Enjoying one moment at a time? Well yes, when they happen.

Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace…wait, what?

We had a sermon today in church, not on this, but in the Advent vein of ‘Mary, when told by the angel that she was to bear the Christ child, didn’t argue, and in spite of questioning, submitted willingly to the change of plans, and enjoyed the wonder and pain which came out of it’. All well and good. And probably why she got picked for the job.

But the idea that we as Christians should submit to this Will, which is supposedly From Love, in spite of being so bloody hard to determine half the time, and which gets lost in translation as a result of this broken world the other half the time, is hugely, massively difficult.

So our speaker wittered on (I’m being mean – he was actually very good, very compelling, but too challenging for me) about making God the centre, the everything, not even the ‘top priority’, but above that, and that Good Things would come from doing so. And that we get too caught up in wanting our own way, and that it’s a real problem, as it often clashes with God’s way, which is ‘perfect’.

As he spoke, my face grew hard and stony.

Each time he suggested that God’s plans for our lives are right and worthy, it felt like a burning ember pressed into my heart and held there until the pain broke out through my body and I started shaking with trying to hold it all in and not run away (again).

Because in spite of the brokeness of the world, and God’s promise not to interfere with free will (and the oh-so-much that this entails letting slide in terms of consequences and unrescued situations, with the caveat that ‘In the end, everything will be alright…’) we all believe in miracles and His ultimate power to Make Things Happen.

No, He’s not a vending machine. And no, He doesn’t answer every request, otherwise chaos would ensue. Nonetheless, the general consensus is that He has the power to make amazing things happen when He wants to.

But here’s the rub (and you’ll excuse me if I just bang out a few statements connected with my beliefs as if you know what I’m talking about, which I accept you may or may not know, and may or may not accept. Bear with me…)

God is love.

Loving God wants people to be happy, and (apparently) promises them the desires of their hearts.

God wants people to desire His will, which is from love.

Ergo…we should all desire His will (from love) and because that’s the desire of our hearts, and then we’re happy?

Enter the conundrum

If the desire of my heart is to be a mother to a live child, and I don’t get that…am I just desiring wrong? And if I don’t get that miracle, does that mean it’s not His will? Which would mean that His ‘perfect will’ lands me with what is the most profound and excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced, which just keeps deepening and widening and hasn’t remotely given up its intensity yet…and I’m meant to somehow accept this.

Serenely?

Are you fucking KIDDING ME?

I sat with my flinty face and my heart in pieces and the tears flowed, hot and raging down my cheeks and fell into the abyss I felt I was standing next to.

This can’t be right…

So the speaker rounded off with a song I can’t even remember, but he exhorted us to only join in with it if we truly meant it. It was about allowing that submission to happen – that joyful surrender of our small dreams for ones much bigger and eternal than our own.

I pressed my lips tight together, teeth clamped down on the sobs trying to escape me.

We’re called to go forth and bear offspring, right? It’s a fundamental part of nature, and infertility’s an aberration. I recognise that. I also know that the sermon wasn’t aimed at me, and that there’s no way for one speaker to appropriately address every single person, in their situation, when faced with a large crowd. And my situation is particularly complex. But still.

The challenge was too much. I cannot begin to conceive of a God who would expect a person with such deep-seated desires for a child to even attempt to give them up. We’re designed to have babies – our nature is to nurture offspring – it’s what we do, and as a species have been doing for thousands of years. Yet I also have to believe that life is On Purpose, and that God helps guide it…

…so what the hell? Talk about your polar opposites. I can’t even begin to reconcile it all, and at that point it starts to feel personal, which rapidly dips back into panic and faith stupidity.

NO. Praying more won’t get me that miracle.

NO. Being a ‘better Christian’ won’t get me that miracle.

NO. Reading the Bible more won’t get me that miracle.

NO. Improving my relationship with Husby won’t get me that miracle.

NO. Getting better perspective on this infertility gig won’t get me that miracle.

I know all that really, but these are the bargains which flash through my mind when I grapple with this.

And in the end I have to believe that Husby’s illness and the loss of our two Neverborns and our rapidly closing window of time to get pregnant again are NOT personal, and NOT punishment, NOT ideal…they just are.

And far worse things happen to far better people, too, so there’s that.

But.

At the end of the service I intended to make use of the prayer ministry which was on offer. If I’m going to even begin to understand what this conundrum is, and how it all fits together, I need back-up. I’m a crap pray-er, and if anyone’s willing to get in there on my behalf, I’m all for that. And as I sat there, tears still falling insistently down, a lady came over who’s been supporting me so well.

She Knows. She had a number of losses between her two children. And she truly knows the pain I’m in.

She held me and prayed with me and talked about what I can do RightNow, practically, to help make best use of these last three months. She rubbed my back and she understood about how I can’t even begin to face Christmas, and how it would turn too bitter and too drunk and too full of tears and agony if I try to spend it at home in our new flat, where no new babies are, but should be. She put her head on my shoulder and she didn’t judge me for swearing in church or for expressing such vehement hatred of what it seemed God’s plan for me is. She smiled her sad smile and was okay with it, though she said wished that neither of us had these things in our life to face.

But I asked her why. Why are these things allowed to happen? She didn’t know that.

I asked my Mum later, because she’s very faith-full, and knows SO many things, and can always explain them well.

But she didn’t know that.

And I’ve asked God why – why did my babies have to die? Why is Husby ill? Why did he have to get depression too, so that we can’t adopt? Why will they only allow us one shot at ICSI? Why does the medication have to change in three months? Why can’t I please, please just have a baby, oh please God, because my heart is just racked with pain at the desolate idea of facing the rest of life with such a desperate, never-to-be-fulfilled desire. And why Lord, if each of these hundreds of tears is so saddening to you, won’t you stop them with that miracle? Why is your timing so incredibly painful to wait for? And what will happen if I don’t…if I never…oh God, what then??

And I just don’t know if He knows that…

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71 thoughts on “Grant me the serenity…

  1. I don't think God helps the bad guys, per se, though they often seem to have it easier in this world. I do believe there's a reason for that, though, too. And I don't believe for one second that it's a Good Thing for them, much as it might appear so.

    I don't know if there's an answer to all this hurt beyond the brokenness of the world. The important thing is to not let it 'get' me (for too long) and to keep Doing Good in the meantime.

    Thanks for your prayers Manal *hug*

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  2. Lizzi,
    My heart aches and my tears flow for you. I feel the pain in your words. So many times I wondered “why me?”, “why is God helping the bad guys and not me?”..No one knows why but there is a reason why we suffer. I hope that your pain will ease with time and I pray for you and your husband. Don't lose faith and be strong. Hugs πŸ™‚

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  3. Thank you so, so much. A lot of this makes sense, actually. About having to just learn to accept that the answer may well be “no”, and get on with life.

    It's desperately hard. But I'll keep trying to get on with life.

    I'm glad you're there for your friend, and I'm sorry to hear about your own sadness about not being able to give Zilla a sibling. That's immensely tough to manage *hugs*

    Thank you for saying this though, and for taking the time and the care to say it. I shall definitely ponder it. And thanks again for the prayers.

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  4. I don't think you're hard to read at all. And as my very wise Mother always says, “the truth can always be told.”

    Meanwhile, the truth here is that I don't think there is one single thing I have in my head and heart to share here that someone else hasn't already said. And besides, who the heck am I to offer any kind of supposed solace to anyone? Pffft. Here's what keeps sticking in my mind, though, for whatever it's worth to you…and if it's worth squat, well, then squat away!

    I think we all get so caught up in wanting to understand God's will, but the truth is that we mere mortals can't. And what seems to help me – because believe me I've got my share of irritation at life situations right now that I'd like to shake a fist at God about – is listening to the thoughts of some of my favorite American lit – the good old Puritans. They had some pretty convoluted ideas, if you ask me, but one that stands out to me always in their writing is that even when we can't understand God's ways, we must accept them. Of course we don't understand why – if we did, WE would be God. And yes, it's ridiculously hard to try to wrap your brain around why bad things happen to good people – why did my Hub lose his job 18 months ago? Why isn't he in a better one in the same field? Why isn't God listening when I talk to him? Truth is – and I know it in my heart – that He is listening. But sometimes, the answer is simply no. So there's that conundrum – the answer to what WE want to happen is no or not right now or whatever it might be. Crappy to hear, I know. But stay with me.

    I have a friend – a dear friend – who wants nothing more than to be a mother to her own child, much like you. And – also like you – I know that she would be fantastic. But so far, that has not happened. I know her heart breaks. I know she'd want to be able to find a way to be OK about everything, but even if she never would say it, I know better. And I know that women in those situations don't want to hear things from other people that sound like options because, as I once heard someone say, “it's easy to feel like you can be OK with God's plan when you have YOUR baby.” Ouch. Which is why I kind of feel like I have no business opening my mouth at all, you see. We have one daughter, but that wasn't our original plan, either. Things just did not go terribly well when Kidzilla was delivered and our baby-making days stopped with her. There are many many days when I know that this is the best way for things to be for a hundred reasons that are too numerous to list here, but it doesn't stop me from sometimes getting sad that Zilla will never have a sister or brother.

    So back to my friend – and this kind of echoes something someone else said earlier. Perhaps it is indeed so that you are to be mother to a child, even if that child is not of your womb or perhaps even adoption? Somehow I think you'd be amazing at being a counselor or a youth minister or someone who works with troubled kids or with mothers who have experienced loss similar to yours. For the moment, it's what my friend is doing. I'm sure she realizes it, but even if she doesn't, I see it. She is mothering every student she teaches, every kid she works with in an extracurricular activity, every kid she works with on school-sponsored retreats…and so on. It's not her first choice, but it makes me happy to see her throwing all that love out there for any kid who needs it. If a student is sad, sick, hurting, whatever – she opens her humongous heart and wraps it around them.

    So, not one word I've put here is anything earth-shattering, but it's what I felt moved to share. Take it, leave it, ponder it…but know that I think of you often and pray for you to find whatever peace it is that you are meant to know.

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  5. Solutions are welcome at this stage! Promise! We have three months to make this happen.

    But I know what you mean. Sometimes the need to just be HEARD is overwhelming. And the need to get it OUT…

    Kristi's right. Everything will have changed. Something will be different, if only that I'm 10 years older and have 10 years more emotional distance from rightnow. But yes, I think this will always be there, lurking, not very deep. It doesn't go away. It doesn't un-do or un-rend with the passage of time or (if you're fortunate) a change in family circumstances and the addition of living children.

    But yes – the huge outpouring of love and support helped IMMENSELY. And now you see why I NEED those Thankfuls – they're not just a piece of fun – they keep me going on days like this. Just about.

    Thanks for the song and the love and the support *HUGS*

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  6. Reading this I had an aching desire to propose a solution. Then I remembered how pissed off I get at my husband for trying to solve. How dismissed I often feel when he constantly responds with solutions when all I want is to be heard and some sympathy. I agree with so many of the comments here including that of our mutual friend, Kristi, and I think she is right and that everything WILL look so different in ten years, which doesn't diminish from the excruciating pain you're in. I know that pain and the cluster of feelings surrounding it and I remember how much I just wanted to have my pain and its validity recognized. That pain is still with me and all I have to do is just scratch a very thin surface to connect with it, which is why my heart breaks for you, Lizzi.

    It is also amazing to see the love around you and the 65 comments and the spirit in which they're all written, and the lady at the church. It made me think of a song I heard just recently. I will send it to you on FB.

    LOVE.

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  7. Thanks Lisa. I know I'm sometimes not easy to read here – those Truths can be quite a lot to manage. But I must write them out of me. Thanks so much for reading and for caring…and for the prayers *HUGS*

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  8. Oh, Lizzi, Lizzi….my heart breaks for you right now. I have a whole lot of thoughts in my head – just sat and listened to your music (lovely and perfect) and read every word of yours and all the comments that follow. I have to come back later, though, because I have to do something right now. But in the meantime, thoughts and prayers are always with you, friend.

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  9. Your attempts at humour (and, I might add, your successes) are much appreciated. We all have our different aspects – I'm often silly and irreverent here – but this GOT to me. Badly. Hugely. And perhaps it's becoming my niche (infertility/grief/miscarriage) and I hope that's not a forever niche, but for the duration that it's relevant, I find that the writing a) helps me get it out of my head and b) hopefully one day might prove helpful to someone else facing the same traumatic experience.

    Your insight is helpful, thank you. And you're absolutely right – there's no way to know the future – it's just that my present is clouded with pessimism and the pain of hopes which have been so cruelly and repeatedly dashed.

    I'm really going to try hard at making Yvonne's way work – there was such wisdom in her words, and it makes sense to at least attempt to get on board with those ideas.

    Thank you for your kindness and your comment. I wish you many, many more years before any loss or emotional turmoil hits you. Because it sucks – I can tell you that much!

    Thanks Gary.

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  10. I found reading your story (while listening to that wonderful music) a humbling experience. My attempts at humour on my own blog seem so inappropriate, even disrespectful, when I hear the overwhelming emotions your are enduring.

    I'm not religious and I have lived a life (to date) devoid of profound loss or emotional turmoil; I am therefore ill-placed to provide empathic comment (unlike several of the other respondents). My thoughts, for what they're worth, are two-fold. Firstly, I think Yvonne spoke wisely around the issue of acceptance. Pain with acceptance = pain. Pain without acceptance = agony. Secondly, from three decades of working as a NHS clinical psychologist, alongside numerous people suffering mental health problems and emotional pain, I can honestly state that I have heard many express a view of hopelessness and expectation that things will not improve at one point in time, only to express a very different, much more positive, outlook sometime later – so things can improve and there is always hope.

    I wish you strength to come through what is clearly an extremely difficult phase of your life.

    Gary Sidley

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  11. No, you didn't – not at all. I agree with you – I just don't like it.

    And definitely – all the comments have been helpful. Most comforting. Yours was both – promise.

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  12. 2am is a late, late time to try reading this one.

    I increasingly think we never get to know the 'why', and that just sucks. So much. I hope you find your peace, too, Tamara. And that we both learn just what on earth it is about that journey that's so damn important…

    And I so, so hope my plans for Christmas come off. At the moment I seem to be being thwarted at every turn by technology, and it's SO frustrating.

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  13. Sorry that should be Col. Not 1Cor. There are other Biblical references in Matthew Romans etc. http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=207114 Nobody is exactly sure how uniting suffering with Christ's works but its Biblical. We share somehow in Christ's suffering. Christ's was complete yes so Catholics consider this to be a gift. God is making our suffering more meaningful not just to us but for everyone. God always takes the bad and uses it for good.

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  14. Ack! The internet ate my comment so I'll give you the cliff's notes. God doesnt want us to be automatons so he gave us free will so we can freely love him. After the fall suffering entered the picture. He could have taken it away but he didn't. Its meant to learn from. Mystical suffering with Christ is heard to understand but its Biblical 1 Cor 1:24

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  15. Lizzi, it's 2 am here and I just finished reading your post. My heart aches for you. I've wiped the tears off my face. I've often questioned “Why?” I don't think I'll ever have the answer. I'm trying to take life day by day, hour by hour. I hope you find your peace and something to do on Christmas other than be miserable. The journey for serenity and peace is just as important is that destination, if not more so. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

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  16. I know, and I know you're right. SOMETHING will change. But what, because after February, nothing will. And that's going to be permanent, as far as we're aware. That's the biggest challenge for me, and the thing which is screwing me up most.

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  17. I'm not sure what I need to say other than this, which I've said before… Life in 10 years will be so different from now, and that I believe that nothing beautiful or inspiring ever comes from “why me?” because that then places a burden we are not designed to carry on us. If I said “Why Tucker?”, it would be much too easy to wonder if his delays are my fault…and that's not good for anybody…
    Still, as you know, I personally feel your pain and senfd you hugs and peace right now and always.
    xo

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  18. Thank you for the hugs and for the teaching.

    I just…I can't conceive of a lesson that's worth it. I truly can't.

    I just hope that it's not that my dreams are too small, or that I'm dreaming wrong,,,but this is o huge of a desire…and I find myself increasingly in the position where I almost feel apologetic for wanting it so much, which is crazy…

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  19. Thanks so much Louise.

    I think faith is meant to be questioned and tested – it's no good if there's just blind acceptance, because otherwise how can we ever grow in it? But this is…not a stumbling block, just really, really hard. And I don't know if there are answers. There may well not be. But life is as it is, and I'm sure I'll bang my head against it many more times before I realise that and get on with the business of living and Doing Good.

    Thank you so much for your support though – that helps a lot.

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