Part 11: God of Grace and God of Glory

January 1, 2016

Friends of my sister’s family, who unexpectedly lost a daughter shortly after birth and recently became aware of our situation, reached out to us and included this observation in their message:  “It appears that you and your family are choosing to lean into God instead of pushing against Him. (Or you choose to write on the good days).”  They were correct on both counts:  We haven’t felt the need to push against God, and yes, I do tend to write on the good days.  Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about this.  I write when I have time, which is rarely, and if I have time, it’s because it has been a good day.  But I have had quite a few “bad days” lately, today being one of them, and I don’t want to neglect to share even the difficult times.  My goal is to focus on God’s grace and all the blessings for which we are thankful, but I don’t want to give the impression that I/we don’t struggle – often – with many aspects of life in general and with this pregnancy and its anticipated outcome.

This year, I’m very thankful the holidays are over, mostly just because I’m eager to get back into a regular routine with the children and put all the excitement and extra sugar behind us!  But it was hard to feel festive this year, and I needed to slip into ‘acting’ mode to get into the spirit of the season for the kids’ sake.  I could have fast forwarded through every aspect of what our culture says “Christmas” needs to be and just gone on with daily life and not minded a bit.

Now we have six weeks until Joel’s due date, and I feel I can, at last, make final preparations, physically and mentally, for the next big event in our lives.  While I’d like to keep him safe inside me indefinitely, the human mind also longs for closure, and toward this end I’m glad that time continues to move us forward, getting us ready to meet – and say goodbye to – our sweet little guy, whether we’re ready or not.  My to-do list includes writing Joel’s birth plan, presenting a growing list of questions to the ‘Loving with Grace’ nurses, packing for the hospital, making special preparations to help all the big siblings through the time of his birth and passing, etc.

This past week has brought discouraging pain in my right calf from ‘insufficient superficial veins,’  (I despise the word varicose), pain that I’d be experiencing even with a healthy baby.  It began rather suddenly, possibly when Joel migrated into a head-down position.  Some days the pain is mild and on other days it is excruciating.  This is simply one of the many costs of motherhood, one to expect to pay when you’re in the third trimester with baby six at age 40!  I suspected this could be an issue during this pregnancy, and I should be thankful (and I am) it’s waited this long to start.  I should be thankful (and I am) that it’s only affecting one leg.  I should be thankful (and I am) that Jeff’s been home for Christmas vacation and that my mom has also been a tremendous help.  I should be thankful (and I am) that I have amazing big-kid helpers who can do almost anything around the house.  I should be thankful (and I am) that the ultrasound of my leg showed no blood clots.  And I should be thankful (am I?!) for my first-ever, oh-so-fashionable pair of compression stockings, which seem to be offering some relief.  I’m not complaining (am I?), but I do feel overwhelmed on ‘bad’ days at the thought of limping for 6 more weeks.  Then I feel ashamed, because I know many people – even many of you – who live with chronic pain that has no end (like delivery) in sight!  It’s one thing to be cheerful on good days, but to stay cheerful on days filled with pain? That’s a much greater challenge and a ‘test’ I’m not always passing.

Just as the angst of the teenage years make both the teen and the parents ready for the ‘leaving of the nest’ and as the aches and pains of the older years cause individuals to long more for the perfections of heaven, so the third trimester was designed specifically by God (as I like to think) to make a mother ready and willing to do whatever it takes (labor and delivery) to find relief from the discomforts of the last 12 weeks!  I’ve reached “that point” a bit too soon this time around, I’m afraid… weary, and counting the remaining days a bit too often!  But I knew this would be the case when we chose to welcome another baby to the family, so I’m aiming for the ‘patient endurance’ perspective and trying to stay positive and busy… hoping that these last 6 weeks pass as quickly as the first 34!

The hardest part of dealing with the aches and pains of the third trimester is the running dialogue with the little voice in the back of my head that in past pregnancies has said, “Heartburn?  Feeling breathless?  Restless feet?  Vein pain?  So tired?  It’s all for a great cause!  It will be worth it in the end!  In just a few weeks, you’ll be snuggling your baby, and all of this will be just a memory.”  Now, that voice tries to talk, but it quickly gets contradicted by the jeering reality that we won’t be bringing a baby home this time.  Jeff reminds me that it’s still all for a great cause.  Joel’s brief life is worth even the discomforts, and I do gladly make these sacrifices for him.  But now that we’ve changed our calendars to 2016 and there are just 42 mostly-empty squares between now and “then,” the dread of not taking a car seat to the hospital and not bringing Joel home with us is starting to loom large, making it just a bit harder to push through the final miles of the marathon.  Normally these six weeks would be a happy flurry of washing baby clothes (blues, grays, and greens this time!), setting up the pack-and-play, rearranging Caleb’s room to make room for the crib, stocking up on baby supplies, etc.  Long ago, I put these tasks out of my mind, yet now that we’re on the home stretch, we’re becoming acutely aware that we’re not doing our well-rehearsed getting-ready-for-baby routine.

When you grow up in the Mennonite church singing acapella hymns in four-part harmony, these tend to be the songs that come to your heart and mind during difficult seasons, no many how many hundreds of other wonderful songs of all types you’ve learned in the meantime.  I’m sure this is true for all of us; the familiar songs of our childhood become the ‘comfort foods’ our souls crave when they are hungry.  Today, as I thought about the coming year and all it could hold – not just for us in anticipating Joel’s birth and death – but also for our nation politically in an election year, for our tumultuous world as the return of Christ draws nearer, and for the church, which seems to be sliding more and more toward compromise with weak and worldly thinking, this is the song that’s been on ‘repeat’ in the playlist of my mind: Mennonite Hymnal 434:  God of Grace and God of Glory.  I’ll leave you with the words and music, in case you, like me, are needing WISDOM and COURAGE for the facing of this hour… for the living of these days.

There are many versions of this song on YouTube, but I really wanted to post a version that sounds exactly like the one in my mind.  Imagine my delight to quickly spot this acapella rendition being led by none other than Lloyd Kauffman!  Lloyd was the director of the Rosedale Chorale in 1993-1994 and also the summer chorale tour to Europe in 1995, both of which I was privileged to be a part.  He and his wife, Mary, will always have a special place in my heart, and I know this affection is shared by many of my RBI friends who will read this post.  Enjoy.

God of grace and God of glory
On Thy people pour Thy power
Crown Thine ancient church’s story
Bring her bud to glorious flower
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the facing of this hour
For the facing of this hour

Lo
The hosts of evil ’round us
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways
Fears and doubts who long have bound us
Free our hearts to faith and praise
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the living of these days
For the living of these days

Cure Thy children’s warring madness
Bend our pride to Thy control
Shame our wanton selfish gladness
Rich in things and poor in soul
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal

Save us from weak resignation
To the evils we deplore
Let the search for Thy salvation
Be our glory evermore
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Serving Thee Whom we adore
Serving Thee Whom we adore

 

4 thoughts on “Part 11: God of Grace and God of Glory

  1. Thank you for the update! I will continue to pray as your time grows near. My heart goes out to you and your family. May God give you comfort and His peace . . I really like this song…..God of Grace and God of Glory …. very beautiful. Hugs to you and your family

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this hymn…and love the acapella….such rich depth in music and words. Thank you for your honesty in sharing your heart. We continue to pray for all of you through the coming days of this journey. May our Almighty God continue to give you His Grace….for His Glory! Hugs to you all…

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  3. Gwenyth, thank you for such a moving expression of where you are. Praying for strength to run this race set before you with endurance. Your parents must be so proud of you. And your Heavenly Father too.

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