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 deerโ€™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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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!!

Nine

Nine weeks ago today we said goodbye to our baby boy.

Most people think it’s been much longer, what with all the craziness and bustle of the holidays that has passed since then. It is easy to lose track, or take time for granted, especially when someone is distanced from the situation.
Since losing our son, we have had a week-long business trip, Thanksgiving, 4 family birthdays (plus a few friends), Advent, Christmas, New Year, Victory’s due date, Epiphany, and countless events of fellowship and/or service, not to mention normal things of daily work. So yes, it has been busy.

But no, it has not gone by quickly.

And while some people have mentioned that it feels like it was so long ago, it really was so recent. Our son just died. Only nine weeks ago. And although, yes, we have been grieving almost nonstop for two years, we have only been grieving this sweet boy for nine weeks. God is faithfully bringing us through the deep waters into more shallow ones (but there are still waters which ebb & flow). He is kind and gentle and loving. We thank Him.

I will again quote one thing from Jerry Sittser, considering that it has been 63 days since I held my Hosanna-boy:
I marveled at the genius of the ancient Hebrews, who set aside forty days for mourning, as if forty days were enough. I learned later how foolish I was. It was only after those forty days that my mourning became too deep for tears. So my tears turned to brine, to a bitter and burning sensation of loss that tears could no longer express. In the months that followed I actually longed for the time when the sorrow had been fresh and tears came easily. That emotional release would have lifted the burden, if only for a while.

So yes, we continue to grieve. It looks different than it did a month ago. And it looks even more different than it did nine weeks ago. But we’re still on the journey. We continue to need & seek grace in all of this. As even the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us, God is our only comfort in life and in death.

Hosanna Praise

Psalm 109:26
Help me, O LORD my God!
Save me according to Your steadfast love!

Come and mourn and grieve with us. Mourn over the passing from this life to the next of your co-heir eternal, Hosanna Praise. Grieve with us in our heartache and loss. We pray that God would give us the faith of Job. May God grant that we might be a story of praise, as we cry out to God, “Hosanna!” Save Lord!

We would ask that you would keep us in your prayers. The wounds from losing yet another child burn deeply. We know that our God is good, and we know that He works all things together for good for those who love Him. But in times like these, that knowledge can hurt as much as it comforts. Please pray for us. Pray that we would mourn and grieve as is right for those in Christ to do. Pray that we would not fall prey to doubt, anger or despair. And pray that God would give us comfort, peace and love beyond our understanding. Pray that He would show Himself to us to be so much stronger than our weak and frail hope and faith.

May God take glory in our little Hosanna.

Isaiah 25:9
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for Him;
let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

Isaiah 38:20
The LORD will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments
all the days of our lives, at the house of the LORD.

Weeping

Psalm 143:1
Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In Your faithfulness answer me, in Your righteousness!

The ultrasound was so quick. I wanted to beg the doctor to let me just stare at our little baby for a while longer. But he gave me a little picture instead. Our baby had grown a bit. But her heartbeat had stopped. That beautiful flicker just wasn’t there. Sometime in the last couple days, without me even knowing it, Hosanna’s soul was whisked away to heaven by her heavenly Father.

If seven is the number of perfection, I plead with God to not make me endure more than this seventh miscarriage. It is too much to bear.

Too. Much.

I am shattered. Confused. Angry. Empty. Hurting. Broken.

Psalm 31:9
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.

I want to shake my fist at God. I know He is in control. And I know He had the power to grant life to this sweet baby. I know He could have kept that beautiful heart beating strong by a single breath from His mouth. So why does He choose not to? Why does He not intervene? How is this good?

These are rhetorical questions. Please don’t presume to answer them.

James 5:16
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Proverbs 15:29
The LORD… hears the prayer of the righteous.

1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their prayer.

These verses have me going cross-eyed. My strength for prayer is waning at the moment. I guess I don’t doubt that He hears us. But, again, I wonder why He answers the way He does. I don’t expect to ever figure it out.

Please, nonetheless, pray for us.

We are thrown back into the throes of grief. Again. Such a familiar (and despised) place for us. Please pray for us as we grieve. And also as we must make unthinkable decisions now. Please, please uphold us before the throne of grace. I feel as though I can not even begin to utter pleas on my own.

Praying, IV

Beware in your prayer, above everything, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think. Each time you intercede, be quiet first and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, of how He delights to hear Christ, of your place in Christ; and expect great things. –Andrew Murray

Oh Lord, my great Shepherd and the Shepherd of my children, cause me to believe with power, to not limit You in my prayers, to not presume to know Your greatness, and give me the courage this morning to expect the unexpected.

Do we know the power of our supernatural weapon? Do we dare to use it with the authority of a faith that commands as well as asks? God baptize us with holy audacity and Divine confidence! He is not wanting great men, but He is wanting men who will dare to prove the greatness of their God. But God! But prayer! –A. B. Simpson

Give me the faith to command with my prayers. Give me audacity and confidence through the righteousness of Christ with which I am clothed! Cause me to dare to prove how majestic and miraculous You are. Put words in my mouth this morning that will accomplish this.

1 Peter 5:6-11

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Oh Lord, You humble us; please take away our anxieties this morning. The devil seeks to devour my soul, give me the strength to resist him now! Remind me, O Father, that regardless of today’s outcome, that we have a glorious hope for the future: including eternal glory, restoration, confirmation, strength, and establishment. Hallelujah!

Proverbs 3:1-2

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.

Heavenly King, I pray this for my Hosanna-Baby. Teach this little covenant child, even in its teeny-tiny state. Faith is a gift from You; teach this child in my womb, cause his or her heart to keep Your commandments. Add length of days and years of life to this child. Bring abundant peace to Hosanna.

Romans 8:6, 11

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Above all, my God, set my mind today on the Spirit. Give life through Your Spirit!! Give LIFE, O God!! Save, Lord!!

AMEN!!!

Praying, III

2 Timothy 1:7

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Oh God, allow us not to give in to a spirit of fear, but give us power by Your Spirit, love beyond measure, and self-control that we can not explain. Please fill us with Yourself and take away the dross that we feel threatening to choke us today.

Psalm 29:11

May the LORD give strength to His people!
May the LORD bless His people with peace!

Strengthen us today, Lord, in body and in faith. Build our spiritual & physical muscles. Bless us with peace that passes our understanding and that overflows from our hearts out our fingertips.

Isaiah 26:12

O LORD, You will ordain peace for us,
for You have indeed done for us all our works.

Among the nations, and in the sight of the Church as well as the heathen, O Lord, bring us peace. We do nothing without You. We have done nothing apart from Your ordained will. We continue to seek Your wisdom and ask for Your guidance. Prepare our footsteps and set our hands to the works You have ready for us. Give us peace as we move forward in whatever direction You are about to lead.

1 Kings 8:57

The LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us or forsake us…

Be with us, God, today as we wait. Be with us, Lord, tonight as we try to sleep. Be with us, Father, tomorrow as we walk the hard steps into the doctor’s building and as I lie down upon the ultrasound table. Be with us, King of the universe, as our ears and eyes prepare to hear and see what news You will deliver us then.

Praying, II

Psalm 115:3

Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.

Oh God who lives and reigns in heaven — be pleased to shower Your mercy and covenantal love upon us. Be pleased to grant life to our tiny child, and be pleased to show your miraculous works to the nations!

Isaiah 45:7

I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

We know, Lord, that You are in control of all things. No matter what is contained in Your perfect will, it is Yours and it is perfect. Even when we can not see the breadth and depth and width of it as You can.

James 1:12

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.

As I struggle with the “blessed is the man who…” concepts in Psalms 127 & 128, I am encouraged by this “blessed is the man” concept. We are not exempt from Your blessings, Lord, simply because we have a very limited number of arrows in our quiver & olive shoots around our table. We praise You, O God! Cause us to remain steadfast, and cause our eyes to be upon the crown of life!

(And let me just add to that thought: earth is not the point. If earth were the point, I would be in total 100% despair. But earth is not the point. Life on earth is but a passing breath. In the eternal ranks of heaven, my olive shoots are many and my arrows are many! Thanks be to God!)

Praying

As we go to war as the body of Christ, praying for the life of the baby in my womb — and as we anticipate the news on Thursday of whether the doctors are right or whether God is going to prove them majestically wrong — I want to share verses with you that are on this mommy’s heart as I pray for this child.

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Hebrews 11:3

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

With His words, with the Word, our God can sustain this baby’s life. With just a simple word. With a breath. With a vowel. It is not too hard for God.

Jeremiah 32:27

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Save, Lord!!

As of an hour ago, our Hosanna baby is alive!! However… The baby is measuring small. And the heartbeat is extremely slow.

If there is one thing I wasn’t really expecting to get out of the ultrasound today, it was ambivalence – and that’s exactly what God gave us. It’s better than “the worst” but it certainly isn’t what we had prayed for. The doctor was not overly hopeful.

Please beg God with us for a miracle.
Ask Him to preserve this precious little life.
This isn’t a medical problem – it is a child. Our child.

Oh God, save this baby! Hosanna in the highest! Save, Lord!!

Save, Lord!

Psalm 118:25, โ€œSave us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!โ€

The word Hosanna literally means Save, Lord. It is a cry for salvation. At the same time, it is a declaration of praise. What a beautiful, complex word.

This is the word that now fills our lips as we cry to God to save us and give us success. He has filled my womb with our eighth baby! And as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, we are calling this little one our Hosanna-Baby.

I don’t have the luxury of waiting to tell you all until further into the pregnancy, because we need your prayers! Please praise God with us for His kindness in blessing us with this little baby. And please beseech His mercy and grace with us as we beg for Him to save us ~ to give us joy instead of grief.

Conceiving is only the first of many, many hurdles for us. This is so scary, tenuous. God has given life, and now we ask Him to sustain it.ย  We are thankful for this beautiful blessing. And for the confidence we have in Christ that as we belong to Him, so do each one of our children. All eight of them.

Amen.
Hosanna!