December 12, 2014: It was a Friday morning. I was at work when my phone rang — it was my little sister. I ignored her first call because I was working and figured she would leave a message, but instead she called again just minutes later. Worried it might be an emergency, I picked up.
“I have news,” she said. Immediately my heart sank… I had a feeling I knew what she was about to say.
“I’m pregnant,” was followed by a long and uncomfortable pause. “I know this has been a really hard season for you, and I’ve been worried since I found out about how I was going to tell you. I’m still in shock, honestly, but I just want you to know I’m praying every day for your family.”
My heart was in a knot of conflicting emotions. Excitement for her growing family was rivaled by jealousy and grief, and I wasn’t quite sure if the tears rolling down my face were joy tears or sorrow tears, but there they were anyway… tiny rivers made of grief and grace that I was growing to believe must be the only thing watering the soil of my soul and keeping my heart from hardening in this season.
Obviously I told her I was excited, and I thanked her for the gracious and covering way in which she broke the news to me. I told her I loved her, and like any big sister should, that I was so proud of the woman she had grown to be. She’s going to be an amazing mom. I don’t know a more loyal daughter, sister, friend or wife than Sydney. She sticks closer than a brother.
Thankfully I had already made lunch plans that day with my friend Erika, who was probably the best possible person in my life I could have spent time with after that phone call. I remember her telling me something along the lines of, “These are the moments in our lives that we make a deposit of hope even when we have an empty tank — and somehow God multiplies it. And Sara, what He’s depositing in you through all of this is creating a wealth in you that will gain interest forever.”
I cried a few more of those soul-softening tears across the table from her, and even though I was encouraged and infused with a sense of solidarity, there were still deeper places of pain that would have to be met by God. I was heading into another holiday season of ache and longing for family, and it was easy to think, “I’ve been asking God for this thing all year, and He gave it to my sister instead.” It was so easy to believe a lie that I had been overlooked or forgotten by Him. Like Christmas morning had come and Santa had accidentally swapped the tags on my gift and my sister’s.
Christmas came and went, and I rode a wave of grace through the entire thing. Somehow able to enjoy the excitement that buzzed around our family that our first grand baby was on the way, and still able to pull away and just be sad when I needed to. Noland was the best rock and comforter, and the kindness of God met me in every single moment.
And when the days were hard, I looked ahead to a trip I’d planned months earlier: I was flying home to Nashville on New Years Day with one of my dearest friends. I couldn’t wait to be in a place that felt like mine, with people I love deeply, getting space and time to process the year that had just passed and dream into a new one with God.
January 2, 2015: I was finishing up breakfast and getting ready to head out to one of my favorite coffee shops for some writing time, when my phone rang. It was my older sister. She was leaving the next day for Israel for two weeks, so I figured she was just calling to say bye. A few minutes of small talk into our conversation, she said, “Well, I have news.”
I knew what was coming, so I slipped out the front door to finish the conversation, knowing I was about to start crying. Before I even had a chance to respond, Steph was already crying for me. That’s the thing about Steph — I don’t know anyone more compassionate or empathetic than her. She enters into the pain of the people she loves, and she carries them until it’s over.
“I’m just so confused about what God is doing,” she said as I could hear her choking back tears. “You’ve been believing for a family for so long, and I don’t get why or how this has happened so quickly and unexpectedly for me and Syd. I wish it was you.”
I wished it was me, too.
I told her the same thing I had told Sydney just weeks earlier. That I was excited for her. That I loved her. That I was in a world of pain, and that was OK.
Steph left for Israel the next day, and we didn’t talk again for almost three weeks. The silence was deafening as I processed through my pain and disappointment without my big sister to call and process with. Steph has always been my sounding board… she’s a good listener.
It’s been a month since that phone call, and I have wrestled with God every day since then. I’ve been angry that this is my story. I’ve been sad from the ache of longing for promises unfulfilled. I’ve been disappointed that I wish with every fiber in my being that I was able to celebrate my sisters in this season like I really want to… but feeling like I have absolutely nothing to give.
One morning as I poured out my frustration to God, He reminded me of the story of the poor widow in Luke 21. Jesus is watching people give an offering, and he watches as the rich put their gifts in, and then he watches a widow as she gives two small copper coins. He says, “Truly, I tell you, this widow has put in more than all of them. They all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her lack put in all she had to live on.”
I’m not sure what her two copper coins were worth, but to us, two copper coins is two pennies. There are days in my life right now that I feel like I literally have pennies to give, and it doesn’t feel like enough. When I read this story, though, in my mind I went right back to the table with Erika that day in December, when she was talking about making deposits.
Somehow there’s grace for us to hand God our loaves and our fish, and let Him multiply it. Somehow He looks at my two pennies and He thinks I’ve given more than anyone else, because this is all I have to live on right now. I’m not in a season of abundance, and that’s OK. That’s actually more than OK — these are the places where God loves to meet us. These are the moments where intimacy with Him is brought to new depths, and intimacy is His favorite.
The last month since that phone call has not gotten any easier. It’s gotten harder, actually. Fertility testing has told us that there are hindrances to our chances of conception on either side. We’ve turned a corner in a lot of ways, but the road ahead still feels long. We don’t really know what the next steps are, and our circumstances don’t at all line up with the promises of family we know God has spoken.
But then again, neither did anyone else’s in the stories we read of God doing miraculous things. He kind of specializes in turning things that aren’t into things that are.
So I’m making deposits of hope, and I am trusting that He’s multiplying it. I don’t know when the intersection of God’s spoken promises and seeing those things come to pass will be. But I know He doesn’t lie, and I know He’s promised us a family. I know He’s spoken an Isaiah 61:7 promise over and over in this last year — that instead of our shame, we will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace we will rejoice in our inheritance. That we will inherit a double portion in our land, and everlasting joy will be ours.
I’m cutting off despair and hopelessness, and I’m choosing to hope in what’s not seen instead of what’s seen. (Romans 8:24-25) Because truthfully, I don’t really like what I “see” in my life right now. I’d much rather set my eyes on the things of Heaven and call them forth from here.
It will be worth it. And everlasting joy is always ours for the taking. Sometimes we just have to boldly step outside of our circumstances and declare that all the things that seem impossible are on their way.
And when life throws your curveballs like both of your sisters having babies just weeks apart from each other, months after you move halfway across America? Well, you laugh with no fear of the future. Because in the words of Ann Voskamp, laughter is just oxygenated grace.
Breathe deep. Exhale grace. Deposit hope.
I’m pretty sure it’s worth it — and one day, I’ll be able to tell you why.