anniversary of hope

I didn’t realize it until I wrote the date in my journal, but today is an anniversary of sorts. Exactly five years ago today was the due date for a pregnancy that was not meant to be.

We were all giddy when the doctor announced that our baby would arrive on 8-08-08. The perfection of the date seemed to be confirmation that God was fulfilling His promise — and confirmation that we weren’t crazy to have a baby simply because we thought He was asking us to.

Eleven weeks into the pregnancy, we went to a doctor’s appointment only to find that the baby had stopped thriving. It was a tragic time for us, not only because we lost the baby, but because we wondered if we’d heard Him right. If we’d ever heard Him right. It was a sort of a spiritual crisis for me.

A lot of grieving followed. To our surprise, a lot of good followed. I want to share about one of the sweetest things that comes to mind as I reflect on this anniversary.

After the miscarriage, time seemed to be measured by ovulating cycles and negative pregnancy tests.  June arrived and I was feeling rather desperate and far from the Lord. I remember stepping outside the last-days-of-homeschool-chaos in my dining room and saying to God, “I need to hear from You. I need something… a sign that You still have me in Your hand.”

The day wore on, and in the late afternoon I received a phone call from a friend.

“This is totally last minute, and crazy, but I am leaving tomorrow for a scrapbook weekend in the mountains, and I want to know if you’ll come with me. For free. Talk to your hubby and call me back ASAP!”

It turned out that someone had paid for their spot at this cozy cabin weekend, but couldn’t go. So I got to go. For free! I knew that was God’s answer to my I-need-a-sign prayer. It was a far more extravagant sign than I had anticipated!

The weekend was full:  sweet friends, gourmet food, scrapbooking, and evening walks in the mountains. God ministered to me so tenderly that weekend. I had been guarding my heart from Him, but on the drive up the mountain, I opened up, and He began speaking to me so clearly.

On one walk that weekend, He drew my attention to some trees scattered along the edge of someone’s property. It was clear that the trees had been kept meticulously over the years. I noticed knobs and little stumps all over the tree trunks. As I drew closer, I could see that each knob represented a branch that had been cut off. I thought, who would take the time to do all of this? And whatever for?

God whispered the answer immediately…  the owner cuts off every low branch so that the tree will grow higher. The Lord began to talk to me about all of the branches He’d recently cut off in my life. It was affirming to hear Him review all of the losses that had caused me to grieve and question Him. There were relationships, finances, opportunities, service positions…and the baby. All cut off in a short time frame.

He affirmed my pain. Indeed, this process of pruning and redirecting is painful. But an important truth was made clear: God wants me to grow higher.  I’m often content to grow sideways, pursuing the things that please me, but God wants me to grow upward.

Later that day, while sitting on a bench with my sweet friend, God drew our attention to another tree, one much larger than the original ones I observed:

image (4)

This is a drawing from my journal that weekend. Near the top of the tree we were looking at, I could see two branches that formed nearly a perfect cross. I knew it was a symbol of the future He had planned for me. The sun was descending behind the tree and the cross branches were practically glowing. The whole scene shifted my focus from grief to hope and expectation. I was confident that God had better things for me if I were to keep growing upward and letting go when lateral branches needed to be removed.  I knew He’d bring us a baby at some point (which He did).  For the first time in months, sitting on that wooden bench miles from home, my heart was at peace.

Funny how the anniversary of something lost can turn out to be the anniversary of His kindness and faithfulness.  An anniversary of trouble can become an anniversary of hope. That’s how God works.

Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the valley of trouble a door of hope.
Hosea 2:14-15

 

 

You can read more about our baby adventure in previous blogs:

the desire of my heart

the wailing wall

 
 
 
 
 

pruning again

Lots of changes are going on in my neck of the woods. God is moving and doing all kinds of new things.  I always say that I love change as long as it’s my idea. That gives you an indication of how things are going here!  The Lord has been talking to me about letting go of the old, yet I find myself grieving and pouting rather than taking His advice:

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

sprout fade

The trouble I’m having is that I can only see tiny little sprouts of the new thing He is bringing about. I can’t really tell what it is, or what it will look like. So I’d much rather hang on to the old thing.  It’s fully visible. It’s familiar.

Then, last night I went to bible study and heard a teaching on pruning. Suddenly, I realized that what God is doing in me right now isn’t about a “right” thing versus a “wrong” thing.  It’s not about punishment or His preference over mine. It’s not about me giving up something so He’ll give me something in return… as if I had any negotiating power.

It’s about fruit. It’s about pruning to gain more fruit.

Even though I’ve already blogged about this subject, I find myself under the Master Gardener’s care and needing to write about the pruning process once again. There are some old blooms in my life that need to be cut away to make room for new blooms…new fruit.

rose prune

Jesus talks about this process in John 15:1-2…

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

These verses tell me that all things need to be pruned from time to time. Not just dried-up and fruitless branches, but fruitful branches must be pruned as well. There goes my secret hope that He’ll leave certain things alone in my life!!  His goal is fruit: more love, more joy, more peace, more patience, more goodness, more kindness, more gentleness, more faithfulness, more self-control. While some things in our lives can damage or inhibit our spiritual growth, it’s not always the removal of things that facilitates more fruit.

It’s the process of pruning that grows us, shapes our character,

and makes us more like Jesus — the most fruitful of all.

For those who fear the pruning process, let me be clear. He’s been tender… gently asking me to let go of things and giving me fair warning of what will be removed. But the truth is that whether or not I want to let go, He’ll eventually prune them away.

Our cooperation in the process makes a big difference.  When we stop wrestling over the thing He wants to remove, we will see that His ways are higher than ours.  We’ll see what He is really up to. He may prune out a job, a relationship, or a ministry, but what He’s really trying to root out is fear. Resentment, Selfishness. Pride. Self-sufficiency.

Can I lay down my will and my wants or will I be angry and bitter? Will I run in fear, or will I trust the Master Gardener and believe that He is doing this because He is good and He loves me? Will I learn to embrace the pruning, knowing that this process is achieving God’s dreams for me? Can I testify with certainty that pruning is good?

Holy Spirit, teach me to yield. Speak truth to me when my heart begins to fear the pruning process. Point me back to Jesus, back to the Father so that He may have His way in me. 

pruning

The Lord prompted me to go out to our rose garden this morning, so I grabbed the pruning shears and a bucket on my way. As I snipped off the dead blooms, He spoke to me about the pruning that He does in my life.

Pruning is necessary. Shriveled blooms must be removed to make room for new blossoms. Wayward branches must be trimmed back to keep the rose bush where it belongs. Diseased portions must be trimmed off to keep the plant healthy.

God has many reasons for pruning things out of my life.  He may see a relationship, job, ministry, locale, or habit as unhealthy, diseased, or beyond fruitfulness.

Pruning is painful.  As I trimmed off old blooms that were clearly dead, the green flesh of each stem was visible. The branches were still full of life! There was no “snap” heard when I cut off the dead flower because the stem was still tender. I was instantly reminded of times in my life when God’s pruning felt like a wound in the tender places of my heart.

God may trim something that seems perfectly healthy or fruitful. It may be very painful to let go. There may be serious grieving involved! In His wisdom, the Lord may remove something for no apparent reason than to make room for something else. We must trust His hands as the Master Gardener and let Him do the work.

I’m being pruned as we speak! I keep trying to talk the Lord into keeping this particular branch. I see life in it! This morning, He agreed with me that there was still some value in it. However, there is far more value in letting it go to make room for something new.

Bittersweet. The pain of letting go combined with the joy and anticipation of God’s faithful work in my life. He is worthy of my trust, so I will let go….