Monday, February 6, 2012

Against a Brick Wall

An ivy vine ranks high in my collection of favorite plants.  I'm enthralled with its ability to climb a brick wall with no supports, displaying an element of strength in tenacious determination.

The florist for my wedding tucked an ivy vine into my bridal bouquet and while gone on my honeymoon, my sister put it in a cup of water.  Roots sprouted.  I planted that vine and it grew circles around the ceiling of my dining room . . . for 10 years.

Lacking a green thumb for house plants, the vine finally died, but it was the same year God gave my husband and I a precious life to cherish . . . Ivy Jordyn.  I don't have the plant any more, but we do have our Ivy girl, of much greater value than a plant, turning 11 this day. (at the time I wrote this, a month ago) So in a sense, the ivy of our wedding lives on.

Of my three daughters, Ivy, my middle daughter, reminds me most of my mom, and in fact, I've told her it's almost like having my mom back.  Ivy's spirit, attitude, love of homemaking, witty intelligence, and even the way she walks are the spittin' image of my mom. Liking all things bold yet elegant, she is sandwiched between her two sisters, each unique in their own way.

My mom, holding Ivy

But let me take you back a few years to the story behind her story.  Ivy is my third born, but not my third child.  We had our son and first daughter a few years after we were married, and then experienced secondary infertility.  This was a long painful journey which got me thinking some things about God's character in relationship to me that simply were not true . . . but I began to believe they were.

I came from a big family, five brothers and four sisters--all from the same parents, one family unit.  I had what some would consider a picture perfect childhood, complete with farmhouse, creek, hay fields, ponies, and a barn artist's would drool over.  I love being from a big family.  But somewhere in all that I got the idea that large families were God's smile of blessing on a couple's lives. When we couldn't have more than two children, I felt like we were not spiritual enough, or that God did not deem us worthy of handling more children.  Maybe we were bad parents.

Furthermore, God was giving my siblings and people I knew many children. Why would God deny me children when I wanted them so badly?  What was wrong with me?  I began to think that God didn't love me or that I had to somehow earn His love.  And it was hard to be happy for others having babies at that time, especially for those who viewed them as a burden.

Later, I was able to conceive children, but could not carry them to term. After three miscarriages, and pregnant yet again, I fully expected to miscarry.  I had numbed myself to any feeling, having lost all hope of actually holding a live baby in my arms nine months later.  I really didn't believe it would come about.

But a peculiar thing happened about a year before Ivy was born.  I was listening to my pastor preach on 2nd Kings 4 when I sensed God speaking to me through His Word.  The passage is about a woman who showed great hospitality to Elisha.  He wanted to repay her for the kindness.  He asked the woman specifically what she wanted. She was in need of nothing . . . except a deep longing in her heart for a son, but she remained silent on the matter. However, Elisha's servant Gehazi observed that she had no child and that her husband was old. They surmised that a child was indeed what she really wanted.

I think the woman did not voice the desire for a son because she had lost all belief.  That was me.  I had lost all belief in ever having more children.  Too good to be true was my motto. God could do these things for others, but not me.  I thought that somehow I had gotten out of His good graces.

But Elisha told the woman she would have a child at this time next year.  And it seemed God was also telling me that by this time next year, I would have a child. No, could it be?  Was that really God speaking or just my wishful thinking?  I brushed it off as wishful thinking.  I remember being quite taken aback. It was not even the main focus of that particular sermon, but was what the Spirit had brought to my attention that day. I was surprised God would speak so direct and specific to me personally.  I was afraid to believe and didn't place much clout in it.

When at last Ivy was born, all roly poly, a little ball of baby, living, breathing, in my arms, I was stunned.  It was strange having a baby in the house again. But it came home to me that God wants to be personally involved in my life and that He really does give good gifts.

An ivy vine twists this way and that, but always grows upward, climbing to new heights. But climbing the high places can be scary business.  It takes great courage and tenacious determination.  It involves taking a risk to reach for the sun against all odds.

In a way, Ivy, born six years after my older two children, is symbolic of that for which she is named.  It was as if hope had been buried in the dirt like a seed and the earth said, "Wait, God's timing for you is different....Don't worry, you will grow into a green vine with blossoms that scent the air with sweet perfume."  from The Trellis and the Seed by Jan Karon

Jordyn, her middle name, reminds me of a crossing.  It was a crossing in my life of understanding that God was not holding back His love for me.  God had a bigger purpose for the "gap" in my family, and in fact was tailor making me for the ministry He had in mind.  Within the six year gap, God led me to various other things, one of which was MOPS coordinator in our church. (Mothers Of Preschoolers).  This opportunity stretched and grew me in ways I'd never known before.

It was also in this gap where I became immersed in a teaching ministry to young women, children, and teenage girls that continues today.  I didn't realize it at the time, but God was working a personal revival in my heart.  I craved the Word of God, often getting up in the night to study it because the longing was so intense.  Most of all I cherished the presence of God in me, not wanting to take a single step forward unless God Himself permeated all of my being.

I began to view the gap in my family as a gift rather than a curse.  God needed time to work His character in me, to prepare me for His service.  And who knows but that most of our lives are simply a preparation for something greater later in life?  Jesus Himself waited 30 years before starting His public ministry. God tailor makes us for the unique purpose He has in mind for our lives.

When my daughters cross from childhood into womanhood, I give them each their own book which captures a bit of their personality.  Ivy's special book is The Trellis And The Seed by Jan Karon mentioned above.  I love this little book.  It's about a vine which dares to climb a trellis and ends in a glorious masterpiece triumphing in the stillness of night. When all other plants in the garden are blooming profusely, this vine is still reaching toward heaven searching for its purpose.  But God designed this plant with its own time table and it finally realizes its beauty.  (I highly recommend it.)

For my precious Ivy girl, there may come a time when life gives you dirt. Embrace it like a seed, dying to yourself as you take up the cross, and then may you follow in the path of Christ reaching ever heavenward.  Patiently wait on God's timing, knowing He has a purpose in all His ways. And His ways are always good.  

Brick walls, intended to stop most people, can become a support, 
a blessing rather than a barrier, 
as you climb the heights of communion with your God. 

 My own personal wall of infertility has become a blessing which now supports my broader calling.

Ivy Jordyn, I thank God for you, and want to wish you a very Happy Birthday!

"With [God's] help I can advance against a troop; 
with my God I can scale a wall.  
As for God, His way is perfect..."  (Psalm 18:29,30a)

(p.s.  This is late in coming because of a computer crash)

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post, Jewel. Thanks for sharing this.