i number the minutes

I number minutes like stars. The minutes Jack is in my arms. The minutes he sleeps, oxygen levels resting in the high 90s, that even 100. The minutes between where we sleep and where he is, the minutes of hallway, elevator, distance.

And the minutes of prayer.

Last night we stood over the giraffe warmer, which my baby doesn’t need, feisty and strong as he is, keeping his own temperature, and my eyes fell on the icon Preston brought from our living room – the good shepherd, the lamb on his shoulders. It sits and looks over the edge of where Jack sleeps, and out past him, to the hum and beep of the other beds, the other little ones.

Months ago, at the first phone call, at the very beginning, when we didn’t know anything but the need for a follow-up ultrasound, the need for a consultation, the need to see a more specialized doctor… I stood at that icon weeping and cradling my belly and asking Jesus again and again where He was. I wept and asked and I told Jesus, again and again, that He could do something, that where there was skin or muscle missing He could build it. Wasn’t it His voice at the beginning, singing the world into being? Wasn’t it His voice the wind and waves obeyed?

Wasn’t Jesus the one who spat on tongues and spread mud on eyes and put his fingers in ears and declared, by the words of his mouth, be opened?

And wasn’t it Jesus, reaching down into death, calling back Lazarus, the widow’s son, Jairus’s daughter?

Last night I looked again – my son has a mark from his IV in his hand that looks just like the mark in Jesus’ hands in the icon. The hands that are holding the lamb on his shoulders. The hands that, even in these long minutes, I believe – I must believe – are holding my son.

I cannot number all the stars or all the minutes.. But then I remember:

To whom then will you compare me,
    that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
    calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
    and because he is strong in power
    not one is missing.

And I remember, again:

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
 He heals the brokenhearted,
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.

The Lord can count the stars.  He can name them all. Who am I, then, to think that Jesus has not been mindful of these minutes? Who am I, then, to think Jesus has not counted each one with me, His knowledge of them far more perfect than anything I could fathom?

Jesus has seen each minute of prayer, of worry, of resting, of oxygen and of desperate joy when Jack is in my arms and I feel the weight of him, his hand grabbing my shirt, and Jesus is numbering the minutes with us.

Isaiah 40, Psalm 147 – God numbering the stars is hidden among the promise that God comforts His people, that God should be praised for His care of His people. Hidden among the bigger promise is the piece I can cling to: Jesus knows each star, each minute. Jesus holds us, counting each breath.

Last night, I held Jack and swayed my first sway of motherhood, singing his father’s favorite:

This is my Father’s world
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought. 

Number the stars, Lord Jesus, number the minutes. I believe I have only begun to see Your nearness and Your love. I believe I have only begun to see the wonders Your hands have wrought, and can, and will.

Come, Lord Jesus, number the minutes with me.

jack’s mom, and your hilary


14 thoughts on “i number the minutes

  1. Oh Hilary, such beautiful words for what is both a beautiful and a heartbreaking time. I remember when our twins were in the NICU, the time spent with them was so wonderful . . . and then we had to leave and all I wanted was to walk out carrying them and finally bring them home. I am praying, praying, praying, for you and Preston and Jack.

  2. Oh, Hilary. This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read in my life. And I read A LOT.

    Praying for Jack, for you, for Preston, for the medical team, for miracles in any form whatsoever, as God deems best. Trying to trust in this age of logic/medicine/reason/answers that we belong to a God who is beyond all of our achievements, beyond all of us.

    Oh, Good Shepherd, come and comfort your children. Bring healing in your arms, bring wholeness. Help us to trust you even in the midst of what might feel like not enough answers. This boy you have crafted is strong and good and a great gift to so many who may never see him ‘in the flesh.’ Already, you are working your winsome way into the hearts and souls of so many of us, refreshing us, reminding us of your presence and of your power. This wee lad is a wonder, pure and simple — even if the eye never grows, the ear never appears, the jaw bone must be manufactured. Even if. But, O, Lord. We stand boldly before you, asking you to be clearly present in ways that startle and surprise us. Give us eyes to see you, to see you in small things and in big, bodacious things, too.

    Thank you, Hilary, for sharing this precious piece of yourself with all of us. It is a gift to be treasured, this writing. A gift.

  3. Hilary, thank you for showing us what hope and trust and fear and love look like, all in one jumbled, tangled, exquisite ball. Not too long ago I was led to start praying five times a day, at 9,12,3,6, and 9. Just for a few minutes. I certainly am not 100% faithful, but when I do pray at those times, you and Preston and Jackson are named.

  4. Hilary – your faith is amazing. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that you (and your husband) can serve as inspiration to us all.

  5. I stumbled upon this post by chance and now follow you on Instagram as well. Your words are raw and stunning and make me love Jesus more. the gift that your boy is exudes through your words and photos and will draw so many who have so little faith to see how beautiful Hope is.

  6. Hilary, thank you for sharing these most intimate of moments and thoughts. I have a tiny understanding of some of these things,and all I know is that God has been closer and more intimate even when the healing doesn’t come, and I know you are right that Jesus is in those minutes with you. counting them like stars. I send you love and know that my prayers are with your family right now and in the coming days.

  7. Hilary…
    as one who has numbered more than a few things…
    this made me weep with its blazing, brilliant truth, with its ache, with its honest lament.
    Exquisite. Your words, your heart, your Jack. Your Jesus.
    I cannot stop praying with you three — you and Preston and our Jesus who ever lives to make intercession for us… for your Jack.
    With. you. sister.

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