my vineyard

This morning in church, I sang a meditation based on Habakkuk 3:17-19. The Scripture reads,

“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.”

The words of the song read,

“Though the tree shall not bloom,
and the vine bears no fruit,
Though the field shall fail and yield no food,
Though the flocks are cut off from within the fold,
And though all is destroyed both young and old…

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
Yes, I will be joyful in God my Savior,
I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior,
I will rejoice in the Lord; I will rejoice in the Lord.

Though the winds rise up
and the rivers roar,
Though the thunder may crash and storms destroy,
Though the mountains may fall and the seas rush in,
And though nations invade by the hands of evil men…

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
Yes, I will be joyful in God my Savior,
I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior,
I will rejoice in the Lord; I will rejoice in the Lord.

And the Sovereign Lord is all my strength
And He makes me to walk upon the high place!

And I will rejoice in the Lord,
Yes, I will be joyful in God my Savior,
I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior,
I will rejoice in the Lord; I will rejoice in the Lord.”

You can listen here to a clip of the song by the composer/arranger Nathan Clark George, but when I sang it for the meditation today I slowed it down, did it acapella, and in general tamed it a little bit for the conservative nature of our church. πŸ™‚

Anyway.

It was an interesting start to the day. Steven and I memorized this song last winter, shortly after our little boy died. Incidentally, today was our Hosanna’s due date. It’s the first time (since after Gabriel, with my six back-to-back losses) that I have reached a due date without having another miscarriage in the meantime. I can’t tell you what a balm our Baby Nine is. Heartbeat and kicks and general sickness have been sweet reminders today of this balm that God has so generously gifted to our family. This life doesn’t replace Hosanna (or any siblings), but it does somehow balm the pain. My arms may not be holding a newborn today like we had hoped, prayed, and thought they would be… but my womb is not empty and our hope is not completely gone. The Lord’s mercies are still new every day. We still have the privilege of anticipating heaven. We still have the unique blessing of having extra sweetness to look forward to when we reach heaven; because not only do we get to see Jesus face to face, but we get to see our children again.

Anyway. Singing the Sanctus today was hard too. Singing “hosanna” at the top of my lungs, knowing that covenantally I too was praising God in the midst of His glorious sanctuary, lifted up by Christ into the heavenlies in corporate worship with all the saints who have gone before ~ including my own Hosanna Praise. I was meditating on a verse today in honor of our Hosanna boy and praying it to our Father even in church, Psalm 106:47 “Save us, O LORD our God… that we may give thanks to Your holy name and glory in Your praise.”

Plus it was Father’s Day. Two years ago, our Promise died the day before Father’s Day, so last year her birthday/anniversary was on Father’s Day. This year on Father’s Day we have the bittersweetness of Hosanna’s due date. And for once, our church actually mentioned the Hallmark holiday numerous times (usually we don’t emphasize Hallmark holidays at all at church; we reserve such acknowledgments for holy days on the Church calendar). It actually pained my heart more than Mother’s Day this year. Why, I’m not precisely certain. But I think it did. Because of my history and because of my exposure to so many many hurting couples (who experience various forms of infertility and loss), it just ached in my heart. I hurt not only for my husband who has had to bury seven of his beloved children (and who has had to watch his wife suffer such grief, which has been such a burden for him to bear), but also for other men I know who ache to have children and to hold their babies on this side of heaven. But Father’s Day was yet sweet for us, too. It included a special meal (steak and potatoes and wine, to boot) and gifts and fresh cherry pie as one way to honor my husband, the father of my sweet little brood of nine. While they can’t all smother him in kisses, scribble him Father’s Day cards, or climb into bed for morning tickle games before church, I am quite certain that every one of these children honored and loved their daddy. I don’t know if they could possibly know how much he sacrificed for them… but I know. And it grows my respect and love for him all the time. Watching him father and parent these nine children has been a true privilege (if not bittersweet), and I am thankful that God has given such a precious gift to me. I can’t imagine mothering these little saints beside anyone else. The Lord is merciful indeed!

But okay, back to my original thought. Habakkuk 3:17 talks about unfruitfulness, barrenness, things that ought to grow but aren’t. And yet in the midst of that fruitlessness (when, in fact, we may have been not only hoping for but truly expecting much fruitfullness!), it emphasizes praising the Lord and rejoicing in Him. It doesn’t say that we need to rejoice in the barrenness. It says that despite the barrenness, we rejoice in the Lord. How beautiful!!

The mention of “vine” also made me think of Psalm 128. Of course that’s Gabriel’s favorite psalm right now, and he sings it a dozen times a day on average. πŸ™‚ We even sang it at our wedding four years ago. We sang it at one of Gabriel’s baby showers. And we’ve sung it in our home countless times during our life together. But the words are always bittersweet to me. I have wondered how I could be called a fruitful vine (Psalm 128:3 says “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table”) when my womb has failed to bring forth fruit season after season after season. Of course everyone consoles me with the idea that “fruitful” doesn’t just mean “fruit of the womb” (although in the context of that verse, it certainly seems connected, doesn’t it?), but it means fruitful in service, in ministry, in wifehood, etc. In so many areas that aren’t limited just to motherhood. Okay fine. But you know what? As far as the womb goes, my fruitfulness has been so different from what I had always expected it to be!! In the postmillennial view of things where heaven is what matters I have been incredibly fruitful. πŸ™‚ More fruitful than I ever planned on being! We certainly weren’t thinking I would be the mother of nine children. So in that sense, God had planned way more fruitfulness for me than I had imagined! But in the short-term sense as far as life and ministry on earth, I have been so much less fruitful than we had expected. To have my body physically incapable of carrying seven of our children to term is incredibly deflating, to say the least. It makes me feel way beyond fruitless. It makes me feel like a dead, rotting vine that spreads disease to any grape that dares to try to grow upon it.

And that feeling can be very debilitating to me sometimes. (more than sometimes…)

But you know what I was reminded of while singing the meditation this morning? In some sense, fruitlessness doesn’t even matter. If the fruit is not on the vine, blessed be the name of the Lord anyway. I don’t have to find joy in my lack of fruit on the vine, but I can still find joy in the Lord regardless of my lack of fruit. Despite the recurrent miscarriages that have plagued our home for years, the Lord has been our joy. He has, indeed, caused us to walk upon His high places! Even in the midst of incredible grief, He has lifted us out of the mire and sustained us.

And that is beautiful. That is worth shouting from the rooftops to the entire world. I may not have had the best harvest off my vine over the last couple years, but the Lord has been praised in our household anyway, by the strength of His sovereign grace.

So, friends, as I remember my children today ~specifically our little Hosanna boy~ and as I honored my husband (and our fathers) and as I welcomed the balming presence of Baby Nine on this day… I rejoiced in the Lord, for He is faithful in all circumstances, regardless of whether there is fruit on the vine.

AMEN!!

4 Replies to “my vineyard”

  1. AMEN AMEN AMEN!! Preach on!!

    This is so exactly how I am feeling right now, too! James IS a sweet balm to my heart and soul, never replacing his siblings, but comfort for NOW. There is so very very much joy ahead of us, Melissa!! And God is so good to us to hold our children safe!!

  2. I never thought about it that way… about how fruitful you’ve been for Heaven. Eternally, you’ve been incredibly blessed with nine children. Wow!

    But my heart still aches for all the heartache and grief, suffering and loss you and Steven (and extended family!) have been through.

    *hugs*

  3. Praise God for the balm of baby Nine! And great thoughts, lots to chew on there about being a fruitful vine.” It says that despite the barrenness, we rejoice in the Lord. How beautiful!!”….this is so important for me to remember as I look at my life and wonder if desires will be fulfilled (ie. bearing children someday).

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