On the last day of 2015 I spent the day with my dear friend, Makenzie, shooting a wedding. When we left the party I had packed us up some tiny bottles of pink bubbly to enjoy when we got home. After all, we too, deserved to celebrate! We had shot a beautiful wedding, and here I was, home and quiet, suddenly hit with the wave that this all-too-overwhelming year of 2015 was coming to a close. As I began to wind down for the evening, I am certain I stared at that little pink footprint on the bottle, and as I wrote then, began to wonder if maybe, just maybe this could be our year. And so began the #wayfarersyearofhope
Like I mentioned in the last post in this space, that I wrote this past Mother’s Day, I just kept inexplicably thinking that things might be different this year. I had no reason, no explanation, and not necessarily what I would call faith. But there was this little flickering of truth that said to hang on to the idea, beyond all reason. And so we began our Year of Hope.
One thing we had planned for the year was that we would be joining our (church) small group in the adventure that is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, otherwise known as FPU. This is something we had debated doing in years past but truthfully, we were never really ready to commit. But 2016 was our year. So we signed up, and we geared up.
On the evening of January 4th, family friends (much more family than friends, with a few added dimensions between) called Paul and said they wanted to speak with us. Here, just a few days into our year of hope, they called because they wanted to send us a gift. They knew, to some degree, through the family, of our infertility and our wish to start a family. They were calling to tell us they would be sending a (far more generous than they should have been) gift to put toward building our family. I can’t control my tears typing this now, months later. They surprised us, out of the blue, with extravagant, undeserved generosity and love. I remember standing in our kitchen like it was yesterday. I remember the cry I let out over the speakerphone. I remember the quiet hugs followed by the hysterical laughter. After all- this was nonsense. Unmerited. Almost laughable at the way it came about. And just like that, our year of hope was spilling over with grace abounding.
A week later we were holed up in a little beach bungalow, waiting on our family to join us for a little winter getaway. My parents had invited us to come enjoy their rental and we even got to sneak away for some time just us, first. We took our pup and we packed our ‘almost winter’ wear and settled in for a little refresh. On one of our last days there Paul and I sat beside the waves and talked about what this year could really mean. What did that gift mean as a sign for things to come? What kind of goals could we set for ourselves? What did God have in store that we couldn’t even dream up yet?
In the weeks following, we were knee deep in FPU and planning big things for the months and years to come. One day my dear friend Makenzie called me out of the blue to see if I might want to join her at a conference for Christian female creative entrepreneurs. The conference, Pursuit 31, had been around for a few years. There were other times I had been terribly sad to miss out but this year I didn’t give it much thought because I wasn’t quite as involved in my business and I certainly didn’t have the money to spend on a rather pricey tuition. But the person she had signed up with was no longer able to attend, and she let Makenzie try to find a new mate, since they would be roomies. She had already paid in full and would lose the non-refundable tuition for not attending, or she could sell/transfer her ticket to someone else. She offered to give me her ticket. A gift. Unmerited. Undeserved. In April, I would be attending Pursuit.
While we were enrolled in FPU, we were approached about doing a video for our church to talk a little bit about why we were doing the classes. About what that financial discipline looked like as far as a spiritual experience and surrender. It was no secret to some ‘core’ church members about our situation and why we were trying to get some things in order. It was also no secret to these people that I might rather have my fingernails pulled out than to film a video for our church. They let me stew on it for a week or so, but I agreed.
The video was to be shown on the Sunday before Easter. It was a special celebration for many in the church who had completed the course together and were breaking some financial chains that had been so burdensome for so many. The Friday night before the service I had a wild hair to clean in my office, and as often happens, I got sidetracked digging through old notebooks and the like. And the one I opened started in the fall of 2013. I talked about it in my Mother’s Day post (which you might want to read if you haven’t… I’ll wait.)
11-11-13 // …and God, I’m selfish. But you know that. And I do truly hope that my changing heart has not been a preparation to deny us biological children. But you know that. And truthfully, I don’t think that it is. But it’s awfully hard not to let fear and doubt creep into my mind and heart. Lord I want to have bold faith that you will carry us through this and that even when it’s tough that we come to you. I know you want me right here, right now. I know you have big plans for me right now and for our lives. I haven’t forgotten that you will do extraordinary things in our lives in your time. Please help me to remember that.
… I asked you what to pray and was immediately impatient. Then I saw Isaiah 43. I know much of it from singing the song…
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
Isaiah 43:1-3 (excerpt)
and then, just below, written years ago, the verse that changed everything:
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19 NIV
THAT. VERSE. Oh it hit me that night. It felt so real and true and full of anticipation. He was doing a new thing. I got all hopped up thinking about financials and where things stood and what if we could maybe go back and see the doctors… and… and… and? I started crunching numbers and I knew that I had a limited number of weddings for the summer. (remember the Mother’s Day post- I had turned away work in the late summer). We had agreed that my income would be split 50/50 toward the baby fund and the “other” things we were working on. We had some money in the bank. We had some ‘future’ money we were counting on. And now I added up the extra income I would bring in and when we would be expecting it. And though I don’t remember exactly, I’m sure I got pretty dang excited and loud upon realizing we were not that far from reaching a number that said “you can afford to go do this…”
On Saturday Morning the men were setting up for Sunday services and I got a call. Not only did they want to show our video, but Oh, hey, would you guys do a little FPU trivia game show before the sermon!? Why, yes, kill me now! But I was nice, and I agreed.
So we went. We played the game. And they played our video.
And then this happened. Yes you have to watch it. https://vimeo.com/159856221 (click link and password is “journey”)
Y’all. I can’t make this stuff up. I also can’t make up what happened as the service finished up. When someone handed my husband a check. And I can’t make up the fact that when we had a music worship service that night my pastor came and told us of an anonymous promise for another sum of money to put toward our goals and plans.
Before we went to bed that night we, in a matter of hours, had every (future) dime accounted for to make a call to our clinic we lost touch with three years before and tell them we wanted to come back. It wasn’t just about the money. It was a thousand tiny moments of reassurance beyond just finances that said it was time. That it was okay that we had wanted this. And that a way had been cleared.
Let me be abundantly clear: I do not think that our willingness to do FPU or try to get our finances in a better place earned us the things bestowed on us. I do not think that God tested us and we passed and so we were able to reap a reward. I do not think it was about money. I think money was the the proverbial and the literal currency of this story. I think we were given an opportunity to let go of something and trust that there was something better in store. Our pastor just said something this past week that resonated back to everything that has happened this year. He talked about how the things we cling and hold tight to and don’t want to give up, aren’t even what God is after. They. Don’t. Matter. Not in the direct sense. What matters, is our willingness to TRUST Him enough to let go. He is not after what we cling to. He is after a relationship with us.
God likes to rock the boat, guys. He likes to be extravagant. He will use people in your life to build up your ruins and breathe life back into the most hollow places. I don’t know why he chose to let things happen the way they did, the good and the bad, in years past or present. But I know that it continues to weave a beautiful story I could never make on my own.
A few days later, I was finally paying attention and packing for the Pursuit conference. I thought as a newbie I should go read every detail I could and check the facebook group and get all the inside scoop. And for the first time, I saw the theme for the year. The theme for this thing I should have never been attending. That was GIVEN to me. In the midst of everything else that the first months of the year had already held for me. Isaiah 43:19 A Way in the Wilderness.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19 ESV
After a few inspiring days (enough for another post altogether), I returned home. I took a couple weeks to continue to seek counsel and support of people surrounding us, and I made the call on April 13. I hoped we might get to see them in the next couple of months. And because God likes to be funny, they had an opening on April 19th.
And so began the biggest adventure of our lives.