Tim Keller on the Negev, with my daughter to my daughter

deirdra’s birth, 16 June 1987

Before I met your mother, the first book of God’s word I studied was Hosea. It was a poor choice made by an even poorer man, a pastor, who wanted me to see myself as as a Hosea, as a betrayed husband. Hosea is so much more than his relationship with Gomer. Yes, Hosea is a very poor start for new Christian. Especially one betrayed.

Yet, out of that poor choice, came riches. The prophet Hosea, out of his abyss, his emptiness, has God pouring his words, his beautifully poetic words and images. As,

‘Sow for yourselves righteousness,

reap the fruit of unfailing love,

and break up your unplowed ground;

for it is time to seek the Lord,

until he comes

and showers righteousness on you’

Hosea 10: 12

These images later connected to other verses, especially verses your mother and I prayed over for ourselves, for our new life together, as man and wife.

For our wedding Priscilla and I used the entirety of Psalm 126. But verses 4 & 5 for me fall together with Hosea 10,

‘Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

like streams in the Negev.

Those who sow in tears

will reap with songs of joy’

Sowing is the opening metaphor here. In order to reap, one must sow; then break the hard, unyielding grounds at our feet. And plant, and plant with the waters of sweats and tears. No soil can resist such waters. Not even deserts. And we planted for joyful songs.

The Negev is a desert, Tim Keller once taught at an Elders’ retreat on Psalm 126 pointing out that in this Negev desert there would in season be a flood of rain waters, rivers of waters enriching the parched sands of desert life. His point was, is, that there are streams, endless streams of joys in our life with Jesus. And we are to sing of them to ourselves, and to others. And then perhaps we can have a hand in joy’s creation.

Both Hosea 10:12 and Psalm 126 passages open with a sowing metaphor, then follows a reaping, a working image that yield in overflowing, unfailing love, joy.

You dear, you are result of such overflowing love, a restoration of hope.

Conceived in Pittsford Vermont, in the cool of a late summer day. Almost as soon as we returned to our NYC home, your mother became very unwell.

The doctors all agreed: Priscilla, your mom, was on the verge of a serious stroke. She needed bed rest. All day -or she would stroke out; lose her baby; and I could lose her. And you.

No reaping; sowing without birth. And the land stays an eternal desert. Abyss.

I had a job teaching at St Raymond’s and your Mom, who had lead a St Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic mid week worship service, obtained day visiting nurse services for your sisters, four year old Elisabeth and two year old Sarah.

Each afternoon and night I came home and cooked and cleaned in our University Avenue home. Each day I stopped your mother from rising. Each day I touched Priscilla’s belly and prayed over you. Each day.

And you came beautifully in a planned C section mid June. You were the ‘son’ all the sonograms said you were; ‘the ‘quarterback shoulders’ whom our doctor -in a great surprise- told us was a ‘girl.’

Should we tie Priscilla’s tubes?


And we had a dear, a Deirdra I named with Joy.

The next week I drove back for studies at the Bread Loaf School of English, by Pittsford Vermont. I was alone.

Your Mom drove up with Paul Swift six days later. Your first day out was a steak outdoor barbecue at the Robert Frost Cabin, Ripton Vermont. You heard poetry and laughter; felt sun and hands.

Everyone said ‘ooh and ahh.’ and…

what a beautiful baby’ how old? – a week?-

She is the youngest baby we have ever had at Breadloaf.

The Davis’ home in Pittsford VT had a lush green backyard. Priscilla would cut across our backyard through the town cemetery to the town man made pond. Small, with an adjoining ball field, surrounded by verdant green hills of multi greens, it was a perfect place to summer. Green Elysian Fields.

You were dedicated in the congregational church there to Our Lord. My father had lent me his dark green Dodge Polara, so we would have a big safe car to drive you around in. Your Irish grandparents had blessed us and visited us in those summers. You were loved. Well traveled and loved.

Deirdra is the only Osewalt daughter who did not have to go into intensive care after birth. She was a perfect birth.

You were, you are, a perfect joy.

Sown in tears. Reaped with songs, joys, songs of joys.

We love you so dear.

Happy birthday


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