Reflections on Mary’s Song

Last week in Lavish Gift-giving, I shared about the miracle child we received. During Advent that year, awed by what God was doing, I identified with Mary in a new and intimate way.

I wondered how much Mary understood of her child’s future, how much any mother could bear knowing.

pregnant with miracle son
Miracle pregnancy

Urging you to approach the manger this year with an open mind and ready heart, I would like to share the poem I wrote that year.

Reflections on Mary's Song
My poem

Dear reader, and it is for you He came as a baby, to die and set you free.

This season, may God truly bless you, beyond anything you could ask for, or imagine!

What are you seeking?

Lavish gift-giving

manger scene
I had a dream, so real that it felt something like what I imagine Joseph experienced when the angel told him about the baby Mary was carrying. In the dream, God said we would have a son, and we were to name him Jeremiah.

Not long after the dream, I began having serious “female problems.” My gynecologist ordered an ultrasound, which revealed massive ovarian cysts and endometrial tumors. He said there was no way I could get pregnant. So certain the dream was real, I went for a second opinion. That doctor said not only could I not get pregnant, but if, somehow, I should conceive, with the pregnancy hormones the tumors would grow faster than the child, causing his death, or severe deformities. I rushed out of his office in tears, and cried for hours.

Finally I surrendered and scheduled the hysterectomy.

The day before surgery, I went in for routine pre-surgical blood work. The next morning, the nurse called.

“Don’t come to the hospital. You’re not having a hysterectomy. You’re having a baby.”

I was ecstatic, but, recalling the doctor’s warnings, fearful at the same time. At the end of the first month I began to cramp and spot. The doc said I was probably losing the baby, to just go to bed. A crowd from church arrived and prayed. Within two days I was fine, and back on my feet.

At twenty-two weeks I went for my first in-office ultrasound, a brand new gadget at that time.

Instead of all my fears, there was a beautifully formed little boy with ten fingers and ten toes, all a-wiggle, and a four-chambered heart, beating regularly. No cysts! No tumors!

The rest of the pregnancy was normal. When our boy was born, I couldn’t stand to name him after Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. (Silly me, as if a name could change God’s design for him. You’d think after those miracles I would be obedient!)

More than twenty years later, my youngest daughter (YD) and her family decided to adopt, to do their part in saving one child from a life of poverty, neglect and/or abuse. When the call came that a five-week-old boy needed a home in two days, they had to make a quick decision and arrange work schedules. YD was still recovering from hospitalization with a serious kidney infection, and their lives were already stretched to the limit with work schedules and their two children. I admired their hearts, but didn’t think it was the right time.

Nevertheless, when they left for another state to get him, I went to the library and checked out every book I could find on adoption, cross-cultural adoption and bonding issues. I read about the children who refused to allow their adoptive parents to give them the love they yearned for, how they would back into a hug, never trust, never let go of some little rag they had brought with them, rather than receive from the parents trying so hard to give them what they really needed.

While I read, I felt God whispering to my heart.

“This is how you’ve been. All the years of struggle, wondering why you haven’t made progress, or why I haven’t changed your circumstances, you’ve been trying to do it yourself. And the times you have come to me, you’ve only backed into my arms.”

I learned that adoption is expensive, and marveled at their faith to borrow money to pay the fees, facing sacrifice for a year or two to pay it back.

God whispered, “I counted the cost, and paid with the life of my Son, so that I could make you my child. Will you let me love you?”

When I considered the choice my daughter and her family were making, purely out of the love of their hearts, with absolutely nothing to do with what the child would bring, I again felt God speaking.

“That is a small glimpse of my love. I love you because I AM LOVE. You cannot earn it, and you cannot lose it.”

Early in the afternoon, YD called to tell me the birth mother was on her way with the baby. “She only asked for one thing.” I waited. “That we keep his first name.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Jeremiah.”

We had our Jeremiah, after all.

Now certain that God was in this, tears coursed down my checks. My heart swelled with love for the child I’d have to wait several more weeks to meet.

When they came home, as my daughter put him in my arms he began to fuss. “Jeremiah,” I whispered.

He turned and looked in my eyes, drew in a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. He snuggled against me with a look that said, “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you?”
Grammi and Jeremiah

Talk about love at first sight!

Jeremiah is three now, with dimples that could charm the spots off a leopard and a smile that lights up a room.

And when I hug him, I am reminded of the God who loves me, just because it’s His nature to love. Who had been trying to love on me for years, and I wouldn’t really let him. Who paid a high price to adopt me into His family, even when I was pushing Him away.

So I light the candles on our Advent wreath and move the statues of Mary and Joseph and the donkey closer to our little manger. The child whose birth we are preparing to celebrate made it possible for his Father to adopt me into his family.

I sigh and snuggle into my Lord, so glad I’ve finally run, arms wide open, into His warm embrace.

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Ephesians 1: 4-6 (MSG)

Won’t you come?

A new focus

Beginnings and endings of life offer more than statistics. We are often faced with an experience that pulls us from our daily-ness and refocuses us.

Recently I recalled one of those events that took place over six years ago.

After my grandson was delivered prematurely, he seemed fine for the first 24 hours, then his little lungs couldn’t keep his oxygen levels up. He was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). That night I contacted friends and relatives across the world to pray for him.

I had no idea how serious it had been until I was sitting by him several days later, watching five medical personal working furiously on another little boy. They lost him.

A nurse approached and nodded his way. “That was your grandson on Sunday night. We’d done everything we could, but nothing worked. We’d about given up when, for no reason, he turned the corner and pulled through.”

I told her about all the prayers. She shrugged. “Well, I don’t know much about that kind of thing, but he’s alive, and it’s for sure a miracle.”

Unable to touch him because his heart rate would soar, I had to spend my few minutes of visitation time just looking, and talking and praying. When I drove away from the hospital, blinded by tears, I had to pull over.

newborn in NICU

“Lord,” I gripped the steering wheel and cried. “We’re grateful that you saved him, but to start life in a plastic box, IV’s and monitors all over his tiny body, lights blinking, monitors beeping and alarms sounding, with the background of rock music from the radio – what a terrible first impression! And we can’t even touch him and comfort him.” I wiped away the tears. “Please, hold him while we can’t. And do something to block out those sounds.” Feeling more peaceful, I dried my eyes and drove on.

Big sister holding him for the first time
Big sister holding him for the first time

About six weeks later my daughter brought the kids to stay with us while she and her husband enjoyed the rare treat of a dinner out. Before she left, she warned me not to let the baby cry because it would drive his heart rate up.

When he grew sleepy, my grandson didn’t want to be put down, but wasn’t really happy being held, either. He began to fuss. I waltzed around the living and dining rooms, singing as I held him close, rubbing his back, and doing whatever I could to calm him.

Without even thinking about it, I switched to Spanish songs.  I started Pescador de Hombres, about Jesus after the resurrection, calling to Peter from the beach and looking into his eyes and smiling with love.

sunrise on water by Jack H Thompson

My grandson froze. Then he looked up at me, and I swear, it was as if he recognized the song! His whole body smiled. He exhaled and relaxed against me, in a deep, peaceful sleep.

As I continued to walk and hum the song, I “heard” a still, small voice say, “That was the song I was singing to him while I held him in the NICU.”

I still get chills remembering it.

Healthy boy at home
Healthy boy at home

My recent experience was with my youngest grandchild. During her first time alone with me she was tense and hadn’t made a sound for hours.  Even though she was exhausted she didn’t want me to put her down. I had to walk and sing. Finally, I sat to give her a bottle and asked her older sister to bring a book for me to read. She brought her children’s Bible.

From her questions about miracles I ended up telling her about her cousin in the NICU, and the song.  Of course, she asked me to sing it.

Grammi holding Elysse at 6 weeks

I was barely into the first verse when the little one shifted in my arms and looked at me with a “Why have you been waiting so long?” look. She started singing along, her whole body engaged. I kept singing, and she grew more and more animated, as if her life were tied to that song. When at last I became hoarse and stopped, she grew quiet again, but contented and relaxed.

Our good friend Hugo Pena, the retired Bishop of Honduras, used to tell us to work on our Spanish, because that is the language of heaven. Could he be right?

One thing is clear, there is so much more going on around and in us than our minds are aware of, than we can comprehend with our five senses or any amount of logic.

It is the Lord of Grace — Love surrounding us, holding us, calling to us when we’ve gone far away, singing into our spirits, breathing life into our bodies and souls.

 I’m asking God for one thing,  only one thing:

To live with him in his house my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet.

That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic.

Psalm 27: 4-5 The Message