Almost two years ago I stood on a mountain outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, sensing God calling me into the depths of a “desert valley” sort of season, much like the climate and terrain of the place I was standing. Knowing before we even began trying that it might be hard for us to start a family, I was sensing God nudging me to start believing Him for one anyway.
I felt like He laid this invitation in my lap in that moment: In the coming season I am drawing you into the wilderness with me, and if you’re willing to follow me to the depths, what I’ll forge in you there will be the very thing that makes you thrive in this place I’ve called you to.
What I didn’t know in that moment was how true those words would be — that there would be pain and heartache and disappointment to walk through, and that I was going to be refined like never before. Now, two years of infertility struggles later, as I get ready to plant a church in that city God spoke so clearly to me in, I’m realizing how true His invitation was that day. Knowing what I know now, I wrote a letter to the me that stood on that mountain two years ago, getting ready to begin a journey deep into the valley of the shadow of death…
The journey ahead of you is not for the faint of heart. There will be deep places of pain and great chasms of uncertainty. You’ll feel lonely at times, but you’ll realize later that you were never alone. You’ll get tired of crying, but those tears are actually watering the soil of your soul, preparing the perfect place for hope to grow. You’ll hurt more than ever before, but know that those who know suffering will know glory. Before you begin your journey, though, here are some tips for your travel.
Pack light. Everything you need is in Him. The next two years are going to feel heavy, but remember that you have always been a girl who travels light. Cast your burdens on The Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)
People are going to say things that hurt. Things like, “You’re so young, you have plenty of time.” “If you just stopped trying, you would probably get pregnant.” “You’re worrying too much, that’s what’s wrong.” “If this doesn’t work, you could always just adopt.” (This one will really get to you, because you do have a heart for adoption, and how dare anyone imply that orphan care would be second-class parenting.) Know this, though: they don’t mean to discourage or offend you. They are trying to offer an encouraging word. Forgive them quickly. Do not let a seed of bitterness take root in that softened hope-soil of your heart.
Many of your closest friends, including both of your sisters, will get pregnant while you’re waiting. It is going to hurt like hell, and you will learn to fight envy and comparison like you have never had to in your life. Be honest with God in those moments. He isn’t intimidated by your anger. In fact, He can’t wait to meet you there with more grace than you’ve ever known. And what the enemy intends for destruction, He will turn around and use for good.
Press into friendship with Jesus and trust that you have a Good Father. In the midst of all your pain, you will find His nearness ever sweeter. What you’ll look back two years from now and realize is that all along, those words from Jeremiah 31 were true — He has loved you with an everlasting love, and He has drawn you with loving kindness. Ever near. Ever faithful. In the wilderness, yes, but not without a companion. And you will know Him more deeply and hold Him more dearly than ever before.
Your marriage will grow leaps and bounds in this season. Press into loving Noland. What you’ll learn is that your family journey is only yours. Just you two. Just the yet-to-be-realized dreams and little lives you’re longing to meet, and the two of you, hoping and hurting and fighting for all that you know He’s promised. It’s all knitting you closer together, and what’s growing, more than anything, is the love that will grow your family for all the rest of your days. It’s worth it.
You are sowing seeds of hope and faith. It will not be in vain. No one who hopes in the Lord will ever be put to shame. (Psalm 25:3) Seeds are sown in one season, but a harvest is reaped in another. This is your sowing season. Your harvest is coming, and the deposits you’re making in your deficit are growing interest like you could never imagine. Keep hoping. Keep believing. It’s all building something in the spirit that will far outlast any reward you’ll ever receive on earth.
You are a wildflower. Don’t worry. You’ll bloom when it’s time — not because of anything you’ve done, but just because it’s what you are made for. Growing in the most unlikely of places. Blooming where no other flower would. You have always been a springtime gal — and Sara girl, your springtime is coming. Those Luke 12 flowers — the ones clothed more beautifully than Solomon and all his splendor — you will bloom even brighter than them.
I wish I could tell you how the story ends. I wish I were writing this with a sleeping baby in the next room, letting you know your promise is on its way and that you can set your stride accordingly to run this race that has a definite finish line. But truthfully, I’m not sure. The doctors say it’s nearly impossible, and all the while, God seems to be moving on your behalf more than ever.
What I can tell you is that two years into this journey that feels really scary right now, you will be thriving even more than you are at the beginning of it. It won’t be without a lot of pain, or without relinquishing a lot of dreams of how you thought things were going to be by now. But you will know the character of God better than ever, and you will hope with a joy that must be chosen and fought for — and truly, I think that might be the deepest, most worthwhile kind of joy.
So, here’s to hope seeds that are finally beginning to bear fruit. To joy that’s deeper than the valley you’ve been dwelling in. To the storehouse of perseverance you’ve been making deposits in all this time, and the return you’re getting in faith and love.
We can do this. Whatever the rest of the journey looks like… we were made for it. I’ll keep walking if you will.