What Utter Joy

It is often hard to put one’s experience down in words, and even more difficult is the task of penning one’s innermost ponderings. Not just what I have experienced, but how that experience has molded me and what I retain now from the experience.

Asher is three and a half months old already. I have posted pictures and happy updates during that time. Our happiness is broadened and our joy is immense. The goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13) is a truly marvelous thing. The utter beauty and joy I find in the daily grind of repetitive, monotonous, and largely thankless tasks is nothing less than wonderful. To have turmoil turned to peace is an experience that I am unable to pour into words. Instead, it just usually pours out in tears.

God heard us and sent relief. His  mercy is abundant and the gladness in our hearts & home is immense, let me tell you.

Psalm 4:1, 7-9
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
There are many who say,
“Who will show us any good?”
Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.
You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

But that may yet be only part of our story. The saga will continue. It does continue even now. Life and sanctification, joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, sunshine and rain, diamonds and dust ~ it continues with each breath we take.

Wouldn’t you think it would be easy to move from sorrow to happiness? Yeah. Me too.
And it IS easy.
And yet it isn’t only easy.
As He has long sustained us in the past, so our Father yet sustains us now. He will continue to be faithful, for He can be nothing less than perfectly faithful. No matter where He leads us on our journey.

Long is the way, and very steep the slope;
Strengthen me once again, O God of Hope.

Far, very far, the summit doth appear;
But Thou art near, my God, but Thou art near.

And Thou wilt give me with my daily food,
Powers of endurance, courage, fortitude.

Thy way is perfect; only let that way
Be clear before my feet from day to day.

Thou art my Portion, saith my soul to Thee,
Oh, what a Portion is my God to me!

~Amy Carmichael~

We are so thankful for the children in our home. I still catch my breath when I say, write, or hear that word. Children. Will I ever get used to it? Will I someday take it for granted? Will the novelty of life eventually give way to the normalcy of it all? God forbid.
Yes, the Lord has given us great things. But we clearly remember what He brought us before He delivered Asher to us. And it seems beyond possible to me that we could ever take our sons for granted, or life in general, or medical science, or fertility, or romance, or a godly spouse for granted. And yet, but for the grace of God and the Spirit’s stirrings within us, we would quickly take His goodness and mercy for granted. We are sinners, and grossly imperfect.

This afternoon I have been meditating on Psalm 16. Some verses have particularly popped out at me and are repeating over and over in my heart. Not only has the Lord been good to us, causing our lines to fall pleasantly of late, but He is the One who has given us counsel. He is the One that has been our Captain and King through all of this! He is the One whose arm is mighty to save (Isaiah 63:1, Zephaniah 3:17)!

Psalm 16:6-9
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;

My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will rest in hope.

In Scripture, I love how “night” is often a metaphor for more than simply the dark hours of a 24-hour cycle. It can imply inner darkness, such as sorrow or grief. So when David says that his heart instructs him in the night seasons, I give thanks that we can proclaim the same. The Spirit inhabits our hearts, and as we remain faithful to the Father and set the Lord always before us, He will instruct us even when our path leads through terrible darkness. Amen! God has been our Sovereign Lord through our recurrent miscarriages, through treatment trials, and eventually through a full pregnancy and delivery of our son. It is because of Him that we have not been moved, that our faith has remained strong, and that He has been glorified.

We ARE glad! We GREATLY rejoice! And we DO have hope!

What kindness.

This is one of those things that I just can’t adequately describe in mere words. I try. And I fail miserably. Every time.

A young lady at our church who competes in speech and debate tournaments around the country interviewed me a number of weeks ago, in order to compose an interpretive speech about my “story.” Her speech would be ten minutes long, once it was finely honed. The fact is, at first I wondered how in the world she would find enough solid material to fill up ten minutes. And then I started to wonder how in the world she could ever capture the height, depth, width, breadth, and spirit of my story in just ten little minutes.

As the days move on, I get to find joy and gladness in cleaning, cooking, laundry, hospitality, playing trains, reading Frog & Toad, drinking tea by the blazing fire, watching Bald Eagles perch in a tree right behind our house and then swoop down to feast on something (along with a coyote, no less), washing diapers, making silly faces, singing psalms, answering countless “why?” questions, kissing away countless tears, soaking in dimples and smiles and new red fuzz atop my baby’s head.
And at the same time, I remember. I remember seven little sweeties who so quickly stole their way into my heart. I see their seven little boxes lined up on top of a dresser in our room. I see their names hanging from arrows in a hunter’s quiver. I wear those names on a necklace, where they rest right near my heart.
I still have shadows of scars from injections. I have a shelf full of leftover medical supplies. Certain smells, certain feelings, certain places ~ and I’m right back there again.

I no longer live in grief. Now I live with grief.
It isn’t who I am, but it has shaped who I am.

When I see our boys, my Gabriel and my Asher, I feel like I can see pieces of our other children in them. I wonder if Hosanna would have had his brother’s steely eyes. And I wonder if any of their sisters had their long eyelashes and cuddly natures.

The perspective and thankfulness we have as we raise these boys for the glory of God and for the furtherance of His Kingdom is a blessing. It was painfully won, but it is a reward we reap.
We get the privilege of teaching, training, disciplining, discipling, and catechizing these boys.
We get the pleasures of playing, reading, wrestling, singing, running, cuddling, exploring, and living with these boys.
We get to clean up their messes, listen to their laughs, dry their tears, feed their bodies, fill their souls, and shepherd them for their life both on earth and for eternity.

What. Utter. Joy.

Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying;
We are praying for our children.

Keep them from the powers of evil,
From the secret, hidden peril;
Father, hear us for our children.

From the whirlpool that would suck them,
From the treacherous quicksand, pluck them;
Father, hear us for our children.

From the worldling’s hollow gladness,
From the sting of faithless sadness,
Father, Father, keep our children.

Through life’s troubled waters steer them;
Through life’s bitter battle cheer them;
Father, Father, be Thou near them.

Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging,
Holy Father, for our children.

And wherever they may bide,
Lead them Home at eventide.

~Amy Carmichael~

Thanks be to God. I know some deep sorrows of motherhood. But I also know deep pleasures. I know the faithfulness of God during the day as well as the night. I have been sustained by Christ in all things. And I glorify Him, offering my hands and my home, all that I am and all that I have, for His glorious service.

Not pretending that I have even begun to truly scratch the surface ~ but realizing that now I get to go live out what I am writing, as I go away from the laptop and back to the beautiful boys God has given me and the beautiful tasks He has put before me.


The Extraordinary Ordinary

O God, renew us in Thy love today;
For our tomorrow we have not a care;
Who blessed our yesterday
Will meet us there.

But our today is all athirst for Thee,
Come in the stillness, O Thou heavenly Dew;
Come Thou to us– to me–
Revive, renew.

~Amy Carmichael~

Life is a-bustle with the extraordinary of the ordinary:

little boys
dirty diapers
jammies with feeties & zippers
hot fires in the woodstove
tea with sugar
meals to cook
toys to play with and put away
turkeys and deer grazing outside our windows
floors to sweep and counters to wipe
tears to dry and laughs to join
books to read
songs to sing
the past to recount
the future to dream of
memories to make

I love how ordinary things feel so extraordinary these days.
Life. It is the most incredible thing.

My life changed so much all at once, and I am still trying to catch my breath.
New home, new baby boy ~ starting anew with life.

As I continue to gather myself, to breathe in the moments of newness, to trudge through the difficulties & bask in the blessings, thank you for continuing to rejoice with us, pray for us, and come alongside us as our brethren in Christ.

God is good and we praise Him for His new mercies every day! He does revive and renew us by His immeasurable grace! Amen and hallelujah. This view and these faces are extraordinary evidences of this in my own life.


Songs in the Night

“I have been through the valley of weeping, The valley of sorrow and pain;
But the ‘God of all comfort’ was with me, At hand to uphold and sustain.

“As the earth needs the clouds and sunshine, Our souls need both sorrow and joy;
So He places us oft in the furnace, The dross from the gold to destroy.

“When he leads thro’ some valley of trouble His omnipotent hand we trace;
For the trials and sorrows He sends us, Are part of His lessons in grace.

“Oft we shrink from the purging and pruning, Forgetting the Husbandman knows
That the deeper the cutting and paring, The richer the cluster that grows.

“Well He knows that affliction is needed; He has a wise purpose in view,
And in the dark valley He whispers, ‘Hereafter Thou’lt know what I do.’

“As we travel thro’ life’s shadow’d valley, Fresh springs of His love ever rise;
And we learn that our sorrows and losses, Are blessings just sent in disguise.

“So we’ll follow wherever He leadeth, Let the path be dreary or bright;
For we’ve proved that our God can give comfort; Our God can give songs in the night.”

~Streams in the Desert~

Maybe Baby

Since I don’t have the “normal” luxury of saying things like, “we’re having a baby” or “my due date is xxx” or “Gabriel is going to be a big brother again,” there are a lot of “maybe“s and “if“s and “we’ll see“s in my conversations these days.
This reminded me of a poem I wrote when I was pregnant with my little boy, Hosanna, last fall. I don’t know if I ever shared it here or not. I can’t remember. But it feels true again even now. I find myself somewhere in the middle of this poem currently. Knowing that today this baby is alive ~ what an incredible, surprising, stunning thing! One we will never ever take for granted.
But there is still the “maybe” factor, even if it is only because of my history. While Number Nine has given us zero indication that he/she will head to heaven anytime soon, there is always that question for us. There is always the qualifier of “maybe.”
So here I share with you the poem I wrote called “Maybe Baby.”

Maybe Baby
by MJC, October 2010

This might be the month
When I will conceive you in my womb.
Or just as likely, this might not be.
But I cling to the hope of that tiny chance.
Maybe, baby; just maybe.

This two week wait feels endless
As I wait to find out the truth.
Are you there? Are you created?
Or will we begin this circle all over again?
Maybe, baby; just maybe.

I thought I saw two pink lines
But now I just can’t tell.
Going cross-eyed staring at the test,
Nobody else can confirm or deny ~ are you here?
Maybe, baby; just maybe.

Waiting for the lab to ring
To tell us what facts my blood revealed.
Soon I will know if you are here
Inside me, in my womb ~ or not.
Maybe, baby; just maybe.

You’re here! You’re real! Alive!
One hurdle down, a hundred more to go.
Don’t know how long I have you,
Perhaps not long, perhaps many years.
Maybe, baby; just maybe.

I tell myself not to think of milestones:
Don’t let my brain head down that path.
Maternity clothes, kicks, hiccups, waddling…
Will we reach that point together ~ you and me?
Maybe, baby; just maybe.

Will my belly get round, and its button pop out?
Will your brother be able to feel your kicks?
Will you hear your daddy talking to you?
Will we get to kiss you, hold you, raise you?
Maybe, baby; just maybe.

The one thing I know for certain, little one,
Is that you are alive. Amen!
You are an immortal, and we will live forever;
Together for eternity, no matter what earth holds.
Not maybe, baby; not just maybe.

Why, Lord? You Know.

I wanted to sharing a little something that made me cry in understanding from yesterday’s entry in my daily reading of Streams In The Desert:

Why must I weep while others sing?
To test the deeps of suffering.

Why must I work while others rest?
To spend my days at God’s request.

Why must I lose while others gain?
To understand defeat’s sharp pain.

Why must this lot in life be mine?
When that which fairer seems is thine.

Because God knows what plans for me
Will blossom in eternity.

~ Anonymous

Whate’er Betide Thee…

If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.

What can these anxious cares avail thee,
These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help if thou bewail thee
O’er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.

Be patient and await His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure
And His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.

God knows full well when times of gladness
Shall be the needful thing for thee.
When He has tried thy soul with sadness
And from all guile has found thee free,
He comes to thee all unaware
And makes thee own His loving care.

Nor think amid the fiery trial
That God hath cast thee off unheard,
That he whose hopes meet no denial
Must surely be of God preferred.
Time passes and much change doth bring
And sets a bound to everything.

All are alike before the Highest;
‘Tis easy to our God, we know,
To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
To make the rich man poor and low.
True wonders still by Him are wrought
Who setteth up and brings to naught.

Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Perform thy duties faithfully,
And trust His Word, though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.

Author: Georg Neumark, 1640
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt.
Titled: "Wer nur den lieben Gott laesst walten"
Composer: Georg Neumark, 1640
Tune: "Wer nur den lieben Gott"

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain!
There’s a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
‘Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee,
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
With holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

~Frances Ridley Havergal~

Thy work alone, O Christ

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.

~Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889~

Fall Day

Instead of giving in to the hard morning I’m having, I am flipping over my calendar page a day early, and trying to embrace October instead of sticking my tongue out at it. So I’m lighting a seasonal candle, baking pumpkin cookies, and reading a Keates poem on fall. Later Gabriel and I will go play in the pine needles outside and work in the garden.

To Autumn
by John Keats (1820)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Fresh Pumpkin Cookies

2 cups butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. allspice (I added a little cloves and nutmeg too)
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups sugar
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
4 cups flour (sifted)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups raisins (I did 1 cup golden raisins, 1 cup mini chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend all ingredients thoroughly.
Drop one inch dough balls onto greased cookie sheet.
Baking time 10 minutes.

Leaning Hard

Child of My love, lean hard
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;
I know thy burden, child. I shaped it;
Posed it in Mine Own hand; made no proportion
In its weight to thine unaided strength,
For even as I laid it on, I said,
“I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms
Of My Own love.” Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on a shoulder which upholds
The government of worlds. Yet closer come:
Thou art not near enough. I would embrace thy care;
So I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I knew it. Doubt not then;
But loving Me, lean hard.

~Streams In The Desert~