Our sweet Audrey girl

Here is the girl behind the prayers!!! This is several weeks 
old, but such a great shot of our little bunny.  
We wanted you to meet her:)
I am sorry it has taken me this long to post.  I have spent a better part of the past two days trying to figure out the best way to write this.  We had a really hard appointment on Wednesday (I noticed that my blog said Wednesday the last time I posted, but it was actually after midnight Tuesday night, and my appt. was the next day).  We met with Angie, who was incredibly knowledgeable and great at her job.  It turned out to be a day filled with information that is really difficult to digest and I am not sure that I have really gotten to a point where I know how to ask for prayer.
Here are the major points, although I want to warn you that I am going to include a few more details than I have before, and you may need to use your good judgment about sharing (I know a few younger kiddos have been reading this:) ).  
As far as Audrey herself is concerned, these are the obstacles that we are facing.  It looks like both of her kidneys may actually be polycystic.  It was really hard to tell from the angles etc., but it appeared that this was the case.  Secondly, her heart is still incredibly enlarged…to the naked eye it appears to be about 70-80% of her chest (but beating strongly!!!).  She also has a large tumor on her lung that also appears to be polycystic.  This is something that Patti thought she saw at an earlier appointment, but Angie confirmed it.  One of the things that I have hesitated to mention because it is really difficult to talk about (and we just keep praying for a miracle!), is that she is in a very awkward position, and it is not likely that she will move because of the lack of fluid.  She is what they call a “footling breech,” with one leg down and the other up by her head.  This is really hard to process, mostly because as a parent you can’t help but worry about her hurting (we have been assured that this is not the case, but nevertheless, it is a concern for us).  We cannot see her lungs because of the lack of fluid, but the medical assumption is that they are non-functioning because they did not have time to form.  As you can imagine, childbirth is likely to be difficult based on this position.  In fact, our doctor told us that it is most likely that she will not survive the birthing process.  Dr.  Trabue is a very strong believer, and I know he doesn’t doubt that God can heal her. He said so sweetly to me, “She has something I can’t fix.  That’s God’s business.”  I cried in his office and was just really grateful for who he is and Who he serves.
I felt like my appointment this week was going to be jarring.  I really dreaded it and felt like God had told me I would be deeply affected by what we discovered.  The truth is that I haven’t felt like there was any place to go but up based on what they had been telling us.  And I thought maybe this week I might hear them say, “You know what? It isn’t as bad as we thought!”  I don’t want to give up on that possibility, but I do want you all to know that barring a miracle from the Lord Himself, this child cannot medically survive. 
It is a strange world to try and prepare yourself and your children for the worst, while keeping your heart focused on what God is able to do.  I know that this email is fact upon fact.  It isn’t pretty or well-though out.  It is just hurt spelled out in a few paragraphs.  My tears have flooded my bed, and I must admit that this is the darkest part of the journey so far.  Sometimes I just cry out to Him like a beggar. 
I want you to know that I am in the eye of the storm, and as much as it hurts to cry out to Him, the beauty is that I can, and that I do. If I didn’t have Him, I would not have the strength to write these words, or to live through my days. The only peace I can grab ahold of is that I am not alone, and that none of this chaos is anything but a beautiful symphony in the eyes of the composer.
I have been praying for you as well, and God has brought something to my mind that I pray a few of you will take me up on.  I have been so comforted by scripture in these hours, and have clung to the promises He has made to me like they are my only lifeline.  God has prompted me to make this offer to you kind, dear people who are walking with me in the valley.   I would love for you to write me personally  if you do not own a Bible  (angelac519@gmail.com).  If you would allow me, it would be my great pleasure to send you one.  If there are specific things you are dealing with, and you want me to pass along meaningful scriptures as well, I would be happy to do so.  I can think of no greater blessing for this time than to feel like I was able to introduce someone to the stories, the beauty, the poetry, the peace, the Baby…just let me know where it should go and consider it done:)  Don’t be shy about asking…I’m so excited to be a part of YOUR story.  I thank my God in advance for His plans, far exceeding ours.  
I feel transparent and scared and everything in between, but I trust that all of these words will find their way into your hearts tonight, and that you will, as you have before, pray for our sweet girl.  For tonight, I am praying for good sleep and patience with my children when day begins again.
Another prayer request is that we are leaving on Sunday for a 7 day Caribbean Cruise (Todd is singing).  So there is the combination of flying and being out in the middle of nowhere with a somewhat unpredictable pregnancy…I feel a little unsettled about it. 
I want you all to know that you were with me in the ultrasound room.  You were with me on the airplane.  You were with me when I needed someone to speak wisdom into my life. I hope you will be with me when we see the fingerprints of God on Audrey’s life and I don’t doubt for a second that we will. 
I am forever grateful that our paths have crossed.  
Angie

The Gift-Giver

I was talking to a friend recently, and she reminded me of one of my favorite “Abby and Ellie” stories.  I want to share it with you in the hopes that it brings a big smile to your face, and that you will have a chance to know my girls a little bit better.
On December 2nd, 2006, the girls turned 4.  We decided that instead of a traditional birthday party, we would take an opportunity to teach them about sacrifice and generosity in a very concrete way.  We asked guests to choose several “small-cost” items instead of gifts, and at the party, we packaged them all up as a group and later sent them to an orphanage in Africa.  My in-laws are missionaries in Congo (Todd grew up there), and we thought that Abby and Ellie were at a level of understanding that would allow them to experience this as a true offering.  It was an amazing night.  The girls had so much fun while our house overflowed with friends and giving that I really don’t think they noticed there were no gifts for them. 
Fast-forward a few weeks.  It was almost Christmas Day, and we decided to do some last minute shopping.  I wasn’t even going to bother trying for the “Santa’s Lap” photo, due largely in part to the fact that we had made the mistake of going to the closest mall the year prior, and had gotten stuck with the chain-smoking Santa who weighed 115 pounds and decided that a good way to get children to like you is to run after them from behind and tickle them while laughing like a deranged jack-in-the-box.  If you live in Nashville, you know the mall and the Santa I am referring to.  My children are still convinced that the reindeer need to be fed every 20 minutes and that their food smells like Jack Daniels.  We had to explain that he was a “helper,” and would most certainly not be popping into our chimney on Christmas Eve.  
I digress. 
As we walked around the upper floor of the mall, Abby and Ellie spotted Santa downstairs. They stared at him for a few minutes and then (much to our great surprise), announced that they would like to meet him.  Todd and I stared at each other.  Not only was there about an hour’s wait, but they weren’t exactly “camera ready.”  But, if they wanted to meet the man, we weren’t going to stop them.  If you know them, you understand why this is a big deal.  They practically dissolved when the Chick-Fil-A cow approached them with a balloon, and the Easter Bunny at our local Easter Egg Hunt didn’t make it closer than 20 feet from us before he started calculating therapy bills.
The kid standing behind me in line had the kind of mom that came prepared.  He was decked out in this little corduroy jumper with a giant hand-sewn reindeer face on the chest and real jingle bells on his antlers.  Every step we took, he jingled menacingly while I stared at my children’s uncombed hair and ripped jeans.
And then, in my moment of feeling like the loser mom who didn’t create a fashion statement for the occasion, Abby’s voice broke out above the crowd as we practiced what they were going to say to Santa Claus.
“I am going to tell him that I don’t want any toys.  I want him to give mine to the poor kids instead.”  She stared at me intently, like a girl who has made up her mind.  My heart almost burst out of my chest.
She had redeemed me.  I shot a glance at the mom behind me, confirming my new status as queen of the line.  
I bet bell-boy doesn’t have a world view.
Smugly (and oh, how Jesus loves this attitude…), I made my way through the line, pondering future nobel prizes and humanitarian work until the moment came to pass the red and gold rope.  Abby had been practicing her speech under her breath while we waited, and now had it well-planned.  We were ready. 
“Next!”
Places, everyone.  My kid is about to make Santa history.
At first, she hesitated.  After a little prodding, she edged her way to the elf-lady and let her escort her to the big chair.  She climbed up and looked at us, starting to panic.  He was trying to reassure her as he showed her his stash of candy canes and talked about Rudolph.  She wasn’t listening.
“Abby, you practiced.  Go ahead! Tell Santa what you want!”  She looked at me and did the thing with her mouth that means there are tears and screaming on the way, and then, she did the last thing I ever imagined.  She raised herself up, taller than she probably felt, and she looked Santa dead in the eye.  That’s it Abby.  Don’t give up now! You made it through the last hour and now is your chance to make a difference! 
I felt like you could hear a pin drop when her little voice finally spoke.  My Abby.  My sweet, giving, caring, ever compassionate and selfless…
“I want a pink tutu.  And I want sparkle ballet shoes.”
My jaw hit the floor.  It was loud and it wasn’t over.
“And I want the purple barbie with the wings, and the movie about the dogs that can talk, and the tea set that is made of real china, and…”
Darn those reindeer jingles.  Now they were mocking me.
Truth be told, I don’t remember the specific list of everything that she asked for.  I am quite certain that Santa himself couldn’t keep up.  I remember a flash going off and paying about $40 for a picture that still hangs in our playroom, reminding me of that moment.  I asked Abby why she had changed her mind at the last minute and she said that she didn’t know.
I have laughed my way through this entire post.  I have always loved this image I carry of God as a director of sorts.  He always knows what is going to come next, but He must just pop a bag of popcorn every now and then and watch it unfold below Him like a great movie.  
Here is what He taught me then, and continues to teach me as I walk this narrow road.
It is one thing to be waiting in line, lost in a sea of faces and noise, formulating a good plan for how you are going to do things when the moment comes.
It is another thing altogether to be sitting on His lap.
There are moments in all of our lives where we have to put the rubber to the road.  We have to look Him in the face and rest in the chaos that He has chosen to be our story.  And we have to remember that we aren’t that different from a four year old who just realized that what her heart wants in that moment doesn’t line up with the big plan she had.  There is something about asking Santa for toys that just makes sense.  It makes sense the way that asking God for a healthy baby makes sense.  It’s His job.  Miracles have been His business for thousands of years.  There have been many, many times on this journey that I have cried out for mercy, not thinking about the eternal consequences or the implications of what this meant for my faith.  I just want my baby.  I want her breath and her heart and her fingernails.  Forget the whole “bigger picture” thing.  I’m here with you, looking at you, and I know you can heal her.  Do it.  That’s what I want.
Every day I have to remind myself that if God chooses another way for Audrey, I will be at peace because it is what my great Lord has ordained.  I want this to invade my thoughts, to lift me from despair, to allow me press into Him with full weight.  I want to really be able to curl up here and forget what I want and just enjoy and trust Him because He lets me get this close to Him.  
I have an ultrasound tomorrow, and I feel anxious about it. Patti’s supervisor will be scanning me, and I am praying that we will learn more about our girl.  It is at 1:00, and then I go for an OB visit directly afterward to discuss the latest developments in her life.  I know that your prayers will go before me, and will fill that dark room with hope that belies medicine.  Thank you in advance for that offering on our behalf.  As always, we are humbled and grateful for each of you…I will post soon to let you know how my appointment goes.  
Angie

In the Mourning

I am sitting in Starbucks, sipping a non-fat, decaf paper cup of healing.  My only regret is that I passed on the whip cream.  Our babysitter is with the girls, and I am listening to a group of college students chat about what really matters in life.  I am tempted to tell them that they don’t have a clue, but for now I am just enjoying the escape.  If I didn’t know better, I would say that I was doing great.  I have make-up on, I had a play-date with a group of amazing women today, and God has given me the strength to be a single parent while Todd is gone (he left Tuesday and will return Sunday).

From the outside looking in, I am just another girl with a hot drink.  
This imitation of reality has become somewhat of a refuge for me.  It feels really nice to slip into the rhythm of life and pretend that I am just like everybody else.  Mostly, people don’t even notice that I am pregnant, which is a gift in such a time.  Inevitably, if they ask, and I produce my “15 second version” of the story, they look at me like we have known each other for years.  It just transcends whatever the moment was just before they knew.  I am daily reminded that there are parts of life that we politely avoid with people we have just met (Who did you vote for? Who, in your life, has inflicted the deepest wound you carry?  Why do you continue to shape your eyebrows as if you were constantly surprised?).  And yet, in the few moments that follow an exchange of meaningless greeting, God has opened the door for Audrey’s name.  Either that, or I just feel like they should know her.  One way or another, I have felt an amazing strength in sharing that I would never have expected because I feel like she might not have a chance to use her own voice in this life.  And every time I do, I feel like people minister to me in ways they probably will never know.  You have no idea how many people respond with, “I have a friend who went through something very similar…” or “A few years ago, I lost a baby…”
Every single one of those stories has mattered more to me than I could ever explain.  There is great camaraderie in suffering. 
If you are reading this, I want you to know that if you shared your story with me, I was moved by your transparency and your pain.  It mattered to me.  If you have taken the time to comment on this blog, I want you to know that I have prayed for you.  Every one of you.  I have thanked God that you care about my little girl, and even about me.
I feel like I have included you on the spiritual highs of this journey (and there are many every day), but the truth is that right this minute, I just wish that God had picked someone else.  I wish the cup had passed.  I wish I cared about what the coolest songs on the radio are and what kind of purse I was carrying.  Okay, that last one was me trying to sound deep.  I actually carry a Coach purse that cost my husband more money than our winter electric bill.  Let’s just get that out in the open.  And while we are at it, I want you to know that I read People magazine. Quite frankly (brace yourself), I am a subscriber.  
Wow.  Still there? 
I just want you to know that as much as I love the Lord, I am by no means the type of person who sails through life just smiling and toting my Bible from house to house while I spiritualize every moment.  I wish you could be here with me, sipping coffee, so I could tell you the whole story from the beginning.  I don’t even know why I am saying all of this except that there are people I have read about or connected with in my life, and I just stare at them with my mouth open, wondering how they have it so together. Todd and I have a running joke about a girl that he used to have a crush on, long before me, and after I met her, I was so blown away that in the car on the way home I told him he probably should have tried harder to win her over:) I am not one of those girls who have it all figured out.  I am the other one.  I guess I just want you to know that if there is something in my words or my actions that resonates with you, I pretty much have nothing to do with it.  In fact, I am such an incredibly harsh critic of my own writing that I don’t allow myself to edit these posts for fear of the fact that I may draw a picture for you that looks more like a photograph than a work in progress.  What you see, what you are drawn to feel for me and for my daughter is only, and completely, an act of God.  
And so, I sit.
The college kids went to go see a movie and one of the employees just asked me what I was working on (which, I think, was a polite way of asking why my eyes were red and puffy).  I am waiting on a dear friend to meet me here, and this post is actually a response to her (very kind) urging to update this site…thank you Jess.  I guess all of these words are building up to a prayer request that I have been sitting on for a few days and not sure how to formulate into words. The most simple way, I suppose, is just to come out and say it.
I cannot believe how much this hurts.
I don’t know how to even get out of bed in the morning, or to answer phone calls, or explain to my children for the 100th time why baby Audrey will not sleep in the crib that we have had set up for months.  I feel like I may not get through this pain in one piece.  And all the while, I don’t want to burden people, I don’t want them to feel like they have to make it better because that is a losing battle.  It won’t be better.  
For years, I have been a part of Todd’s ministry.  I have felt that way because people have told me their stories, how his music had helped them through the darkest times.  And here is the truth.  I have never ONCE taken those conversations for granted.  I have been so incredibly moved that someone I love so much could have been a part of healing a stranger. Because of what we are going through, I feel so bittersweet about him being gone.  I believe in him and his work as much as anyone could, but we all miss him desperately.  The night he left, we stood at the window and sobbed while we waved at his headlights and faced an empty house. Ellie kept making up goofy jokes to make my face “not red,” and then informed me that it was time for bed because when we woke up, we wouldn’t be sad anymore.  I waited until they were asleep, and then I fell apart.  I haven’t completely put myself together again, and I think that is why I have hesitated to write.  
It’s easier to let people feel the strength than it is to be in pieces, begging for mercy.
It’s easier to talk about the possibility of healing than it is to face the fact that she may not be healed.
It’s easier to say that you feel God than it is to say that you don’t.
Please join me, as you have in moments of inexplicable joy, in this moment of downright grief. I covet your prayers as I am trying to navigate these waters.  As I plan for what may very well be the thorn that God has chosen for me to bear…I want to feel like I carried it well, that I honored my Audrey and my God.
I came across something tonight that speaks of the one and only Jesus. Even in the silence, He has reminded me that He is not absent. 
About a week before Audrey’s diagnosis, I was shopping at a local maternity boutique that is going out of business.  Everything in the store was drastically reduced, and I noticed some little vintage-inspired photo albums that were absolutely beautiful.  They didn’t have many styles left, and I saw two that immediately reminded me of the three girls that I already have.  One had two little babies asleep together, and another had a raven-haired little girl that looked a lot like Kate when she was a baby.  I grabbed them, and then decided to get one for Audrey as well. They only had one other “girl” style, which was partially obscured by its case, so I grabbed it without really looking at it. After we found out that Audrey was sick, I wanted to put her ultrasound photos somewhere special, and I pulled out the albums.  I literally gasped for air and sobbed while He reminded me that He is in control.  The first picture is of the “Abby and Ellie” album and the “Kate” album. The second one is Audrey’s.  You will notice that they are distinctly and painfully different, in a way that breaks my heart and draws me to the God who so ordained them to be.  I am resting in that tonight as I weep for the baby I may not get to love in this world.  She will be loved deeply, eternally, perfectly.  Thank you for helping me to carry this hurt…I thank God for every one of you.  Angie

Teacups

Well, I had an ultrasound today. Patti spent another few hours of her life with our sweet Audrey…we are so grateful for her gift and for her heart.  She makes the unbearable seem very normal, like catching up with an old friend.  No matter what she says, I can sense how desperately she wants to tell us that it is all okay, that the baby is healthy, that this was a dream and she is the alarm clock we have been waiting for.  We all know that she may never be able to say those words to us, and we accept graciously what she can offer.  Again, if you are reading this, Patti, thank you.  Thank you. 
We didn’t get too much more information today…Audrey was bundled up in a little knot with her arms covering her face. We couldn’t see her kidneys because of the way she was positioned, but we watched her heart move for the better part of the appointment.  To me, it looks like a little clover that opens and closes.  It still takes up most of her chest and possibly has a leak as well as a hole.  Patti will be traveling to Murfreesboro tomorrow and will share the images with one of the doctors in the practice to see if they can come up with any more information that would give us a glimpse into her world.  Please pray for wisdom tomorrow as they do this…
While we were at Disneyworld, I was struck by the fact that for a lot of the trip, I just felt sad.  I have debated about whether or not to even share this story because we really had a great time, with more memories made than I could ever fit into this blog.  My children laughed and rode and ate and stared.  They marveled at the castle the way I did when I was a little girl.  To our surprise, they rode a roller coaster (hands up) nine times in a row.  They could not get enough of “It’s A Small World,” but quickly decided that the real life princesses were a combination of creepy and “not really the real princesses.”  They danced in every wide open space they came across and devoured enough sugar to keep a small country running.  In short, they were as happy as I have ever seen them.  I am forever grateful for the moments we got with our girls, but there is a deeper story, and I want you to be a part of it.
On the first full day we were there, the girls rode the teacups.  My father in law and I decided to watch instead of riding, and I had the best time seeing everyone loop around the line as they waited for their turn.  I was immediately struck by the pattern that emerged.  Just as I sat down, I saw a couple arguing over whether or not to ride.  They decided to go for it, but not before she had leveled him verbally and their little boy was staring off into space.  Shortly after, I saw a delicate little flower of a girl stomp on the ground because she wanted the lavender teacup, “NOT the pink!!! AAAHHHH!!!!!”  Her mother patted her hair (gently, around the 7 foot bow), and promised they would ride again and again until they secured the coveted cup. Princess climbed in as another couple started up in the background.  They had special tags to ride at a certain time, and were irritated that they were going to have to wait another turn. Junior was no more pleased than momma, and was the type of child that I try to steer my children away from at the park.  He had a look of fierce anger than belied his little body…like a live wire in a preschooler, fueled by the attention that he could summon instantaneously.  It was obvious his parents were more worried about his response to the wait than the wait itself.  
My suspicions about this particular child were confirmed later in the day when I saw him do the unspeakable while his mother had her back turned.  Are you ready for this?
He spanked Peter Pan on the butt during the Magical Parade.  
Don’t worry, I gave him a look that could melt ice, and had the victim not been dressed as a magical flying boy-man, he would have jumped the rope too.
Anyway, as I watched all of these mini-dramas (and others) unfold, the most beautiful, unusual thing continued to happen.
As soon as the ride started, and the music filled the pavilion, people just forget why they were unhappy.  There was a 45 second time period every few minutes where they just got lost in the blur of joy.  Hands up, screaming laughter, cameras flashing. Even the spanker kid got in on the action.  
I love the teacups.
For the better part of the minute, all of the world is just right.  It doesn’t matter that you waited half an hour, or that you pretty much paid $50 for one go-round.  It is totally insignificant that your problems are on the other side of the music.  Everything is just a whirly-twirly, perfect place.
And then it happens.  EVERY time.  Go for yourself and watch, because if you let yourself, you will see and feel the moment where the cups slow down and the music surrenders, and there is a collective sigh that summarizes the moment.  Nobody wants it to end, they just want to keep spinning and spinning except that you can’t.  It has to end.  You have to get back to life, to hurt, to silence.  To whatever it was that made you run there in the first place.  
In a sense, that was my experience of the whole park.  I wanted to get away, to escape and go somewhere magical, to get caught up in the idea that everything was just right.  
I realized about 5 minutes into the fireworks that I had gotten on a plane to travel to a place where Audrey was healthy.
I cried that night after the lights went out in our room.  I talked to the Lord, begged Him to do something, to intervene, to make it right.  As He always does, He just sat with me and listened. I felt better (could have been a combination of a Sovereign God and a really high thread count) and eventually fell asleep.  When I woke up, I had a message from my (amazing) nurse practitioner Susannah.  She is Dr. Trabue’s daughter, and I count her as a friend who I have traveled with for almost 6 years.  She had just gotten the ultrasound report that I shared with you all a few weeks ago.  She explained that although the report noted many things that were encouraging, the overall picture had not changed.  Medically, Audrey cannot survive.  Susannah is an amazing woman of God, and I know that she prays for me.  She has traveled around the world to help people in need, and I am sure she has seen her fair share of miracles, so I don’t want to give the impression that it was her intention to leave me without hope.  She chose her words very carefully, and even in that moment I found myself grateful to a God who always knew that I would stand outside my hotel and cry with a woman who loved Him as much as I do.  
So, before you toss your Disney brochure or think of me as a fantasy-hating cynic, let me explain.  
The happiest place on earth is not on this earth.
This life was never meant to fill us, to satisfy our need for goodness.  It wasn’t designed to give us an answer, but rather to let the question penetrate our lives daily.  I believe that one way or another, God will answer our prayer to heal Audrey.  It may not be here, the way we wish it could be, but I have complete faith that she will be whole.  And it won’t be temporary.
If you only hear me say this one thing, all of these words will be worth it. For all of you who want to know the great secret to how we are breathing through this, it is pretty simple.
He is enough.
I am not a preacher.  I will not pretend to be.  What I am is a woman who realizes more and more every day that I want Jesus more than I want the teacups to keep spinning.  In this life, we are going to be disappointed.  We will hurt.  But there is great joy in the shadows if you know where to look.  
The truth about Disneyworld, and the entire Disney empire for that matter, is that it was borne of hurt.  Walt Disney was a man with a broken childhood who tried to create a place that mimicked the things he loved as a boy and created the things he always wished he could have had.  He worked his entire life to create a world that defied his pain.    
If you are hurting tonight, I pray that you allow the Great Physician to heal your brokenness as He is healing ours.  If you are enjoying the ride, hold on tight and try not to throw up your lollipop:) 
I am celebrating unspeakable joy tonight.  Joy that defies this world and welcomes the next with the eagerness of a child.  Thank you, Lord.  We are humbled by Your deep, unfailing, unending love.
And as always, thank you for your prayers and for taking the time to be with me here.
Angie

Disney World!!!!

Well, we are home from our big trip to Cinderella’s Castle.  Thank you so much for your prayers….you were all with us in spirit and the girls LOVED the adventure.  I am pretty tired, but really wanted to share these moments with you all. I think they say it all…
I’m sure you realize by now that I am a storyteller, and there are many hiding within these images that I can’t wait to tell.  For now, enjoy!!!!