For all of the beauty found in celebrating the liturgical year, I find that marking milestones by these holy seasons and rituals has a tendency to make whatever experience that much more intense and emotional for me.
Pregnancy announcements during Advent—potent. Witnessing conversion and Baptism at Easter Vigil—stick a fork in me. Gifts of selflessness amidst elderly couples having their marriages blessed; families journeying with special needs children, young and old, as they reach for the Eucharist; vowed religious with their gaggle of foster children in the front pew—I’m a puddle on the floor.
Having experienced the loss of our third child Jesse during Holy Week, I was simultaneously angry and admittedly hopeful that the God of life, the God of the Resurrection, would plan to step in and make meaning from our deep hurt. The “rainbow baby” I had heard about. Surely death doesn’t get the final word, I would reason.
But years went by, and the only thing our doctors agreed upon was that for one reason or another, that ship had sailed. We were too old. No more children awaited us.
Reluctantly I began to accept that what I had hoped for, good as it was, did not seem to align with my particular calling. Haunted by self-doubt, and overwhelmed by the voices in my head telling me that perhaps my ambition was larger than my skill set or perhaps I just wasn’t cut out for a large family, I began to move on.
“Don’t forget to embrace the good that is,” I reminded myself. So I chaperoned, volunteered in classrooms, picked up donations, gave away our baby clothes, and began to toy with the idea of going back to work now that our girls were in school. I couldn’t help but wonder what new possibilities awaited me in this place I hadn’t expected to be.
It was at this point, after a day spent retreating with Confirmation students, that I casually grabbed a home pregnancy test from our linen closet to help rule out some things about my wonky, long cycle. My husband rolled his eyes, bemused that after all of the unsuccessful attempts that had confirmed the same thing, there appeared to remain some degree of stubborn hope. But a trip to the drug store confirmed that our years-old pregnancy tests had actually provided accurate feedback:
You might imagine that those little pink lines put me instantly over the moon with long-awaited joy and hopes fulfilled, but you would be wrong.
Instead I feared that all I or anyone else would see was the way my body seemed to have failed for years, and my illogical desire for more, even while the family I had was so deeply good. Had our Jesse lived, this new life would have completed the picture of four kiddos that I had imagined, and would have rounded our family to an even six. But the missing piece that I felt would be apparent in our family photos from now on. The unfulfilled hopes I had expertly learned to carry inside would now be made visible, alongside the prayers answered.
Fickle as the day is long, I took longer than expected to wrap my head around the utter gift of this complicated joy after I had pummeled such hopes back into my little box of wilted desires. In my mind’s eye, I kept replaying the scene from Genesis 18 where the Lord appeared to Abraham and Sarah and told the geriatric couple that now their hopes of bearing a child would be fulfilled.
Sarah laughed, and I laughed right along with her. But here’s the punchline:
“The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’” (Genesis 18:13-15)
The very story that I had clung to (as a fool whose life-direction made a sudden and illogical u-turn) provided the reminder that God’s goodness is vast and often unimaginable. It can be easy enough to play small in our own circumstances, but never when it comes to God’s Spirit that so thoroughly permeates our lives.
This truth had been there all along.
Nevermind that our girl had been taking shape since the Feast of the Annunciation or that we learned of her life on the anniversary of our loss. Nevermind that we were privileged to approach her birth during the season of Advent and welcome her on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception—a God wink if ever there was one.
Nevermind that the age gap between sisters was not a source of distance like I had imagined, but the fueling of a fierce devotion and doting that was new to me. Nevermind that my own body had been physically brought to the brink to bring her this side of eternity.
She was here. She is here.
Hope from despair. Life from death.
Is there anything too wonderful for the Lord?
Katie Cassady is a wife and mom to three girls in Denver, CO. A beekeeper and avid gardener, she believes stewardship, Catholic Social Teaching, and the practice of Sabbath hold untold potential for the Church and the world. She holds a Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry and published Sunday Fun as a tool to help families intentionally integrate the practice of Sabbath. She blogs at Blessed Is She and unexpectedhoney.
This week’s sponsor of Mothering Spirit is Give Us This Day, a daily devotional to help you deepen your prayer life. Request a free sample of the print edition here or download the app here for a free 30-day trial to help you pray this Advent.