Showers of Blessing, Heart Full of Clouds

Any time now, Madeline. Any time now, we expect to lay eyes on you, and hands on you, and lips on your forehead, and fingertips to your brow. Finally, your family will experience you with five full senses, unveiled from your mother.

This is me filling my quiver. This is the Lord building the house.

Yet, if I’m honest, joyful expectation was not one of my emotions on the day when we discovered your tiny existence, those first cells of you, here to stay. My reaction was more akin to panic — dread, even.

One by one, the anecdotes came flowing out: “Three was the hardest number for us,” said one of my friends, father of seven. He patted my shoulder sympathetically, as if to say, see you on the other side. “That’s when you stop playing man-to-man and start playing zone defense,” he said.

Zone defense? Seven children easier than three?

Relatives confirmed it; blogging mothers confirmed it; the United States fertility rate confirmed it (2.01 as of last year). I could already feel the weight of the sleep I wouldn’t be getting, the spare time squeezed to a mere trickle of stolen moments where there was once a reservoir of hours. You would put us over the top, it suddenly seemed.

And that wasn’t even the half of it.

Precious girl, soft and sweet, what will this cold world be like to you? How will you find it to inhabit this fallen place, this proudly degenerate family of Man? What happens when our own comfortable lifestyle tips with the rest of this runaway culture over the edge?

These are the questions that still pierce my thoughts from time to time, but which, last summer, had me convinced that I was not ready for you. Not at all ready for another child — least of all a girl, into a world brimming with lawlessness and depraved violence.

I am only being honest. You deserve that much. This is the precise emotional topography that took shape within a few minutes of your mother’s affirmative pregnancy test. We didn’t know your name yet, but we knew your consequences. Isn’t that always the way? Fear immediate and tangible; hope slow and steady?

Then it happened — all at once, sudden as the July storm that swept in late one night.

My anxiety had been fermenting for weeks now, and sometime long after we were all in bed, the drops started falling outside the window, typically a welcome sound. Mother stirred, whispered, “Is that rain?” I knew immediately that it was, and just as immediately, my mind catalogued all of the things that I had left around the yard.

Tools. Fresh lumber for the chicken coop under construction. Bags of cement.

I stumbled into the humid warmth of this summer storm wearing sandals, and began to retrieve my things one armful at a time. With each wave of raindrops that soaked my hair and slicked my bare shoulders, I felt the resentment building.

By the time sixty pounds of powdery cement exploded from its bag all over my drenched legs, I was completely fed up. Mother watched from the back doorway, asking if she could help, graciously stifling the laugh that must have wanted to escape at the sight of me covered in mortar, like the grotesque masterpiece of a sculptor making a study of the average American male.

I had no way of knowing God had ordained the moment for you and me. Our first, Madeline, and your father with a heart full of clouds.

I cleaned up as the storm rolled further east, away from Fallbrook. Back in the comfort of my bed, God was stirring. Settling into the sheets, these were the exact words that I was moved to pray:

Thank you for the rain, Father. I’m sorry I was unprepared for your blessing.

I can say that He told me to pray them because they materialized in a whisper before I even had the chance to feel the shape of this sentiment in my mind, like usual. And because of what they did to my heart.

I could almost hear Him chuckling at the genius of His object lesson, the ridiculous scene I had made at three in the morning or whatever.

Madeline, this was the night that God sent a storm through town to teach me to love you—far in advance, the way He loves His children, lunging toward the horizon that carries you closer.

And it was the night when He took all my fears and anxiety out into the rain and put them to death. Whether you are an absolute hurricane of a thing, like your sister, or a gentle cloudburst on the breeze, you are not a storm to be weathered, but refreshment on our parched land. I know that now.

I bless you, dear child, because you are the overflowing abundance of God in our family. I welcome you as the blessing that I wasn’t looking for and certainly don’t deserve, but exactly the one that I need.

“Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
{Psalm 127, of Solomon}
“You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.”
{Psalm 65:9-13}