Grief in the Waiting with Sonya Isaacs Yeary

Auntie Anne Beiler
December 14, 2021

Auntie Anne Beiler

Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels

Sonya Isaacs Yeary's dream was to get married and have a family. But she surrendered these dreams to God, saying, "If it's not your will for me to ever have a family or children, I want what you want for more than what I want for me." After a divorce and then a pregnancy that ended unexpectedly, it seemed like what God wanted may not be what she had dreamed.

This week on Overcome With Auntie Anne, we're continuing our Isaacs Family-themed month and chatting with my very good friend, Sonya Isaacs Yeary. Each member of this family truly has their own unique story and struggles. And I wanted you to hear from all of them.

Sonya is not only a member of the Isaacs singing group, she's a country and Christian hit songwriter who also sings background vocals for the stars like Dolly Parton, Reba Mcentire, and Vince Gill. She has a sweet spirit and a kind heart, and I can't wait for you to hear her story. Listen to the podcast for the full interview, or keep reading for the highlights.

Growing up in the Isaacs

Last week I chatted with Sonya's mom, Lily Isaacs. In case you missed it, the Isaacs are a family composed bluegrass gospel band. Sonya says that the musical life is "the only life we ever knew." When she was young, her parents would travel around the tri-state Ohio area playing and singing, and by the time the kids were teenagers, they started to gain some notoriety.

Growing up with musical parents, the three kids, Becky, Sonya, and Ben, learned to sing, play instruments, and write music, and by the time they were in their mid-teens, they were all established members of the band. Together with their parents, they all became The Isaacs.

Growing up was an adventure. The family went from traveling in cars to a van to a rickety bus, to eventually a new bus, and it just grew over time. But it wasn't always easy. Sonya says they were a traveling ministry, and "many times ate bologna sandwiches to get by" or "we’re at the mercy of whatever the church wanted to give [them] for coming."

They also sacrificed a lot of their childhood. As kids, they missed normal kid things like proms and other school dances, but they loved what they were doing and felt fulfilled. And Sonya says, it's not the glamorous life that most people think it is. For instance, she and her husband spend a lot of time apart. But, she says, "it's been a full life, and it's been rewarding [and] the rewards definitely outweigh the sacrifices."

Growing up with two different cultures

Sonya's mom and dad come from two very different backgrounds. Her dad's side is the Pentecostal side of the family. They live in a holler with no electricity or running water, and it's a large family--her dad is one of 17 children. But, they live a life of faith, and that's where the bluegrass influence comes from.

Sonya's mom's side of the family, though, is Jewish from the Bronx in New York City. And the family is much smaller, just grandma and grandpa. While her dad's side of the family ate country cooking--fried chicken and dumplings and things like that--her mom's side of the family would eat things like bagels with flocks and cream cheese.

But, Sonya says, the two different cultures "really introduced our palettes for different musical styles," and they jokingly call themselves "bar hopper Hebrews" or "kosher hillbillies."

Both sides have also influenced Sonya's faith. She loves the culture of the Jewish faith, the traditions, and the discipline. But the Pentecostal side taught her about free worship and a personal relationship with God. "They're very conflicting, but I see the greatness of both of them, and I try to implement those."

Marriage and divorce

Sonya was 20 years old when she married her first husband, Tim. He was a singer in another band, and he made Sonya laugh, and she was attracted to him. So they got married, and eventually, he started playing with the Isaacs and became a regular contributor to the band.

But during this time, Sonya was also starting to get noticed individually for her talents. She got her own record deal and asked Vince Gill, her idol, to produce her solo album for her. But because of his busy schedule, Vince wasn't sure he could do it. So he invited Sonya to come on tour with him as a backup singer with the idea that they could tour together and work on the album at the same time.

Her family and her husband were all in favor of her doing it even though it would make life crazy.

It meant a lot of traveling. Touring with Vince, flying back to play with the Isaacs, going to Nashville to write, record, and have meetings. Eventually, with the craziness of life, Sonya and her husband just grew apart. As she says, "What you water grows. And we weren't watering it, and it died."

She was miserable, and her husband wasn't happy, and they were waiting for a change that would never come. So after seven years, they decided to get a divorce. "It was as good of a divorce as you could possibly have."

Looking back, Sonya admits she was young when she got married. She was only 20 at the time, and she feels that at that age, you don't even really know who you are yet, so how can you know who you're supposed to spend the rest of your life with? She believes that waiting would have been the wiser thing to do.

Unfortunately, regret is one of the things that all of us experience to some degree at one point or another.

Sonya felt that by getting a divorce, she had broken God's heart, and she wondered if God would ever give her the chance to get married again. And if he did, would it end the way her first marriage did?

She eventually started dating again, but it was a struggle. She had a few long-term relationships after her divorce, but she just wanted to have fun in her twenties and early thirties and never felt at peace about getting married to any of the men she was dating. As she says, "Part of it was probably the war inside of me and the conflict of what happened and being divorced."

She would pray about it with her mom, and one night her mom felt like she had a word of encouragement from God. The encouragement was, "I'm shining the light to fix the soul for you. And when the time is right, you'll know without any doubt."

What Sonya didn't know is around the time she received that encouragement, her one-day-to-be husband surrendered himself to God, started going to AA meetings, and began the work of changing his life. Sonya says, "Truly the Lord was shining the light to fix him for me." Eventually, they met and married, and her new husband Jimmy is the love of her life.

It reminds me that sometimes, in the moment, we can't see clearly, and it's hard to understand why life is the way it is. But once we get through it, we can look back with a clear view and realize what was actually going on.

Having and losing children

Because they were a little older when they married, Sonya and Jimmy began trying to have kids early on. Their first son, Aiden, was born a year and a half into their marriage. And then, when Sonya was 40, she got pregnant again, this time with a girl.

She had always wanted to have one of each, a boy and girl, and it seemed like her dream was coming true. But six months into her pregnancy, she started hemorrhaging and had to go to the emergency room. After an ultrasound, the doctor came and told her that her baby girl's heart had stopped, and she was no longer alive. Just like that, her dream was dead.

In her pain, Sonya questioned whether or not she was being punished for something she'd done in her life. She questioned God and asked if this was something she deserved. But she knew ultimately that God loved her. And even though she was in grief, the grieving was peaceful.

Speaking of the baby she lost, Sonya says that "from her death was born a testimony, was born songs that have helped so many other people get through losing babies."

Six months later, Sonya got pregnant again, and at 42 years of age, had a second son. She thought she was too old to try again, but just six months after her second son was born, she was unexpectedly pregnant again, and at 43, had a little girl. Her dream finally became a reality.

Sonya believes that God allowed her to go through what she did so she can help others who have gone through or are going through the same thing and so she can encourage others who have lost babies struggling with their own blame and guilt.

I find Sonya's story to truly be an overcoming story. Every time I see Sonya on stage, I see the joy on her face, and I feel her heart at peace. And every time she sings, through her pain and all she's gone through, she's truly found something to give to others. And her story today is really an encouragement to many women who are struggling with the very same thing.

If you want to learn more about Sonya or hear her music, you can check out her family's website, or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. She'd love for you to come to one of their shows if they're ever in your area.

The post Grief in the Waiting with Sonya Isaacs Yeary appeared first on Auntie Anne Beiler.

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