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

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  • Anonymous

    My continue prayers and supplications are before the throne of our Lord for you and your family as always .. Tonight I meet with my church family for prayer so I will lift your case in this group as well …God Bless you …Damarys

  • Jessica

    Morning, hon. As on every Wednesday before, I am praying for you. Love you and your family. xoxo

  • Anonymous

    Hey Angie,

    I’m praying for you today. Your post was beautiful. With love and prayers, Ashley E.

  • Amanda

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I cry when I read your blog and I am reminded of the miracle God did in my life when my son was born 3 months early. For five weeks before he was born we were terrified he would come too early to survive (I was diagnosed with IC at 22 weeks and recieved a rescue cerclage then bedrest). He is now a happy, healthy 7 month old. I pray that God will give you the miracle you are hoping for. You and little Audrey have touched my life. Thank you.

  • karen44

    Angie –

    Isn’t it great, that even in hard times God can send us smiles? I’m grateful that He’s reminded you of this story. Be proud of your jingle-free girls — there may be nobel prizes and humanitarian awards in their future yet!

    -karen l.

  • Beckycain6

    Angie,

    I have the most amazing adult sunday school class here in Virginia. At the beginning of every class, we list any and all prayer concerns and praises. With that said, let me explain….

    The spirit pulled at me this past Sunday through most of the opening service. It continued to pull at me all through the delicious coffee and doughnuts afterward. And, in its wonderful nagging way, it followed me right into my Sunday School. I sat there listening to everyone call out their names for the prayer list and smiled as I heard some of the good ole’ praises, “…’We are going to be grandparents for the 20th time,’ ‘my oldest son just passed the bar exam,’ ‘our neighbor’s dog didn’t get into our trash this week…’ ” etc etc. It is hilarious for my husband and I because we are easily 30 years younger than everyone in there…..so we listen, and we smile. The blessings of a quiet, old, country church……

    However, this week was so different. I remembered your name because I had come across your blog some time the night before. I must have looked mental because in my head I ran over every last name possible…..but for the life of me could not remember your last name. “Make something up…make something up,” the genius side of my head was telling the other side. And as I heard my mouth start to speak without permission from my brain, “I have a prayer concern!”……I knew it better pop in there fast. “There is this mother that I learned about who could use all the prayers this class can muster. Her little unborn baby Audrey…………..” It was all I could say before tears melted down my face.

    “I don’t know her last name, but…….” And then, out of no where, my husband blurted it out. I was shocked because I didn’t think he had heard me reading to him as he drifted to sleep the night before. He’s famous for pretending to sleep–just so I’ll close my laptop and join him in dream land.

    I could tell you the rest of all the painfully boring details, but to save time I’ll get right to my point….

    Our prayer list was long, and in the teacher’s humble soft way, he patiently and lovingly read through all the names….imploring our dear Lord to wrap His healing hands around each of the names he carefully listed. I want you to know what he said…….as best I can remember, it went softly like this:

    “And, dear, sweet Lord….we pray earnestly for Angie, and little, little Audrey who she carries warmly inside of her. Lord, oh please put your healing hands on Audrey while she attempts to endure her short time here on earth. Whether her time is limited only to that inside her of her loving mother……or Lord, whether you will let her tarry here on earth, please help her family to accept that ‘your will be done,’ as always it is, dear Father.”

    He just kind of ended after that……and the spirit was so strong in the room. Someone said (with tears in her eyes), “We should put that family on our Congregational Prayer list…” and it slowly shifted from tender silence to the chatter of a noisy and rowdy adult sunday school class.

    I’m only telling you because I thought it would help you to know that prayers of supplication are being called out to our Father in Heaven on your behalf on a very daily basis.

    I’m sure it must be crappy at times to be the person who’s pain is a testament to someone else…..but the Lord, in all His infinite wisdom, finds countless ways for us to be ministered to AND to minister to others. It’s just the way it is.

    The trail you are walking down right now is so tragic……but you are right what you said in your last blog…..God is in charge on this one. It is His way….His story. I pray for you–that you can endure the words and the pages. I pray that you”ll make it through every chapter of this one, Angie.

    Be strong and know you are in many people’s prayers……..

    Becky

  • Jody

    I am touched again, by your post and the way God is speaking to your heart at this time. I am finding that when I surrendar my plans to God, that there is blessings I can’t explain as a result. The ‘miracles’ I have prayed for don’t always happen…but other ones do. And I am better for them in many ways. God’s timing and ways can be trusted- even in the most difficult of circumsatnces. I will continue to pray for you, for Todd, for Audrey and all that God already has planned for your lives. Thank you so much for your heart.

  • KrisinVT

    Angie-
    I have had you in my heart and in my prayers these last weeks. If I thought sharing my personal struggles with losing 2 tiny babies would help you– I would pour it out. If I thought I could say something profound that I learned that made it all better- I would do that too. What I can share is a scripture that God has made real in my life “Faithful is He that calleth you who also will do it.” 2 Thess 5:26.

    Angie- I wouldn’t know you if I bumped into you in line for Santa (lol), but I know that God has called you to something amazing and that He will give you all you need to get through it. He did it (and continues to do it) for me and my 3 little miracles.

    Your story made me smile-here’s one that (I hope) will do the same for you. My Eli is 3 1/2 and a true ham and all boy to beat. We go to the same Chinese restaurant after church every Sunday. Last week, he stopped to look at the giant fish tank. (Why do all Chinese restuarants have them anyway?) I turned to see him fiddling with the knobs on the stereo that was placed on a shelf beside the tank. When he didn’t stop at my insistance, I left the line at the cashier and went over to him. Bending over, I asked “Eli, what are you doing?” He looked me square in the eye and said “trying to make the fish swim faster.” Of course he was. lol

    I will be praying for you especially tomorrow. May God’s hand be completely evident for all to see.
    Love,
    Kris

  • Nanette R.

    Angie,

    I am a fellow church member at Grace, but we haven’t met. I actually learned about your prayer need and blog from my sister who is a member of Forest Hills BC. That said, I have been drawn to your blog and have been lifting you up to the Father as you come to mind. Today, Selah was the “artist of the day” on 94FM-The Fish, and everytime I heard them announce that, I prayed that others would be led to lift you all up as well. Thanks for sharing your heart and your experience.

  • Adrienne and Jim

    Hi, Angie,

    I remember hearing this story from you one of the first times we met, and it still made me laugh like the first time I heard it. You are so right. When we talk to God, we do hope he will bring us what we wish just as a child who asks Santa to bring her what she wants for Christmas. During the past 4 years, I have learned many times that God doesn’t always have the same plan for me as I may wish for Him to have. However, He does have a plan for me and for you, full of blessings among the heartaches. Maybe that plan is to bring healing to little Audrey and to give me the ability to carry a baby to term. We can hope so, and we can continue to pray, to wish and to ask for our deepest hopes and desires to be granted. I will be thinking of you and praying for you as you have your ultrasound tomorrow. Thank you so much for sharing your feeling so openly with all of us who care about you and wish we could take away your heartaches. Sending you much love and a big hug,
    Adrienne

  • Anonymous

    I will be praying for you and your family! I can’t set here and say I know what you are going through, because I don’t. But I do know that My God and Your God is in control and will always be in control. This was my first time reading your blog and I read a few past blogs and noticed that that you have a “fear” of flying. Well…. we must be long lost twins because I do the same things as you. And my wonderful husband wants to get his pilot lic. too. Not to mention that he is in the Air Force. ha. We fly alot because i have family in the south and my husband and baby girl are laughing and smiling enjoying the flight, and I am flippin out. You ask your children if God has told them anything about today, but I asked my husband. He must be Job because I asked him a thousand times. Well I hope this gave you some humour. We will be praying for you again. Thanks for letting me take up your time.
    God Bless, Andrea
    Godsgurl_99@yahoo.com

  • LInda

    What a beautiful story. As your girls get older there will be many more such stories that give you that mixture of pride & mortification. :) What a blessing to have such memories to give you comfort and joy. Today as you go to the doctors office – you take that love & the love of many unseen faces. But most importantly – you will be carried by your loving Father who has walked each step of this journey with you and Todd and your girls. May His peace comfort you today & always. Linda

  • Cathi

    iafxvkujWhat a couragous women you are and how you have touched my heart.
    I have been led to tell you a couple of stories.
    One: 2 Kings 4, a woman lost her son. She responed with “It is well”. SSo I am believing with you that “It is well” with Audrey. When you pray the scriputres all of Heaven is believing with you.
    Two. I would like to email you the second story because there is a picture with it that you should see. It is a stroy of an unborn baby, 21 weeks. He was diagnosed with spinalbifida and would not survive if removed from his mother’s womb. I do not know why he needed surgery but his mother knew of a doctor’s special operations while babies are still in the womb. After his surgery was done, little Samuel reached through the incision and firmly grasped the doctor’s finger.
    The picture I know will comfort you heart.

    God’s blessing and love to and your family.

    Cathi
    ccully@wect.com

  • Anonymous

    Ang-
    We’re praying for you, Audrey, Todd, and the girls. As always your blog is amazing. I know in my heart that Audrey is so proud of you, and the Mother you are to her. Hang in there!
    We Love You Guys..Debbie, Tom and Sam

  • Anonymous

    I’v been in prayer for you today. God will see you through. Thank you for being a blessing. God will not give us more than we can handle. trust in Him.

  • mckenna

    I am praying for your family.

    Thank you, you are more encouraging to me than you will ever know. thank you thank you thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Angie – You are in my thoughts and prayers…….I don’t know why God has you going thru this……but I do know either God will walk with you thru the fire….He may let you go thru it or He may quench it before you have to endure it – but if this is His will for you then He will be right beside you the whole time/and even carry you thru it if He needs to . Praying for you – Jenifer

  • THE BOONE’S

    I can tell by each word that you put in this post that you have your hand in the hand of the One who has power to do all things perfectly, wonderfully…I am feeling so glad to hear you are in that place with the Lord that “keeps” you in perfect peace, the kind of peace that protects you from the tornado like winds that cirle your family right now.

    “YOU GO GIRL, GO ON AHEAD WITH YOUR FAITHFULL SELF” :) Just like a tree planted by the waters,so you are, you SHALL NOT be moved. I wish I could have an insight to what God has planned for you in this journey but for now, Oh, I have my FAITH VISION and my family and I are praying (as so many are) for you,with all the love in our hearts. I am allowing my daughter, Karrie 8yrs, to type you a short note. I read the children the end of your post tday, and she said ” I wish I could talk to her” and I told her that she could type to you if she wanted, I hope this is okay. we are praying…that room will not be dark today it will illuminated with the light of the Lord there with you, and all the peace that comes with that light. all my heart, Robin

  • Kathleen

    I am praying for this baby and for the whole family but let me say this… like Jesus said when they ask him why the man was born blind He said so that God would be glorified in his healing. I say let God be glorified in the miracle that is growing inside of you. I send many blessings your way and I speak life and life abundant.

  • THE BOONE’S

    dear angy i hope God’s will
    is your will. Just waned to
    tell you i will always be
    praying for you.And i beleve
    Jesus will keep your baby
    safe.We’ll keep praying and eventuly God will
    awnsure our prayrs. sometimes
    when i’m sad I listen to
    my worship jamz CD, it makes
    me feel better. do you have a
    favorite worship CD? I wish I could send you my favorite song but I don’t know how. it is Holiness (take my life) it is on the worship jamz first cd. I have 3 of the worship jamz cd’s. I hope your favorite cd makes you feel better. love,karrie p.s. i will
    keep praying for you every day.

  • Anonymous

    Angie and Todd,
    My family of 6–4 children and my husband and I–went to Springfield, OH on Feb. 16 to see Selah in concert. The group has always meant something special to me as they make the experience one of worship with many songs I grew up on. I can’t tell you I know anything about your situation now and I wouldn’t dare try. I only know that there are many trials in life and as I walk my own daunting journey right now, I know how hard it is to be challenged. My famiy and I are not churchgoers right now and we have many doubts. I would like you to know, however, that as I spoke with Todd and Allan and Amy, I felt the truth with which they worship and the sincerity that is in their heart. I feel jealous of the walk you and your family have with God the Father but also know that with all things, God is an inspiration and will work in ways far beyond our grasp. I suppose this message is more for me than you, but I desperately want you to know that as weak as you may feel, you are providing more than you will ever know for many people that you will never meet. God bless you and in whatever plan God has, may you feel peace and understanding through it.

  • Anonymous

    I just found your blog because again we will be seeing “Selah” in Midland at the end of March. I began my journey with “Selah” after the deaths of my brother,age 50,brain tumor, his wife, age 49, lymphoma, my dad, age 78 cancer, my mom, age 77, heart desease, my daughter, age 26, suicide(bypolar). All this in a 5 year span from 1999 to 2003. The pain has been just a horrible, horrible ache that only God can comfort by allowing me to know Him and know that I will see my family again. My daughter came to one of the first concerts to “Selah” at a young age. She was also a musician and sang and played piano and wrote all her own music and put it on a cd before she died. I still have it and the pain in her music is so obvious now. At the time, I just knew it came from her heart and soul. During this time my other 2 children suffered so much pain too. My hubby too, he is a music mininster at a local catholic church. “Selahs” music helped me overcome and “Press On”. A song I listened to over and over. Now, just last Aug. 2007, I found out I had a brain tumor too. I had surgery in Sept. 2007 and they removed all of a benign tumor. My journey back to health has been difficult with medication almost killing me before I had a chance to see if I was ok, normal again. This road that God has chosen for me, is not one that I would have chosen for myself but each day I come to understand His bigger picture is not always what I want in this life. I would enjoy just being normal and not knowing so much but I am humbled that He has intrusted so much to me and given me the wisdom to continue and help my children and grandchildren come to know Him better and better. For without the knowledge of pain and sorrow, I would not have been strong enough to help them be warriors in this world that is possessed by the devils charms. He alone knows what to give us and how much we can take at one time.
    I see you and Todd are expecting a child that may not see or know this world but God will guide you and help you know the wisdom of His choice in this. I also, am awaiting a baby girl granddaughter from daughter #2 who is suffering with fybroligioma & chronic phorious and the child may not make it in this world either because of a chromosone problem possibility. We also are trusting God to do the impossible, if He will, and give us a healthy granddaughter. We so want to meet this wonderful blessing in this world.
    Just know you are in my thoughts and hope that “Selah” can update us at the concert in March in Midland, MI about the baby too.
    Blessings to you and to Todd and to Selah. The music has so uplifed me during hard times in my life.
    Vickie

  • Anonymous

    dear Angie,I cannot tell you how your writing has touched my heart and ministered TO ME! and to think of all the pain you are going through. I continue to lift you and your family up to the throne of God daily, and have shared your story with so many others.I lost a beautiful little girl to “crib death” many years ago and can only tell you what you already know- God is Faithful!Thank you for sharing your husband with us Selah fans! I know it must get so hard at times, but I have NEVER heard another group that touches me the way they do! They are truly annointed with the Holy Spirit!How I pray God’s blessing on all of your lives as you sacrifice a”normal life” so God can be glorified through your husband’s gift ,along with the other members. Please pass this on to Todd & the others if possible.I wish I could let all of them know how their music reaches down to the very depths of my soul! When I play them in the car,I end up driving with one hand because the other one is always raised in praise to our Almighty God!So, don’t forget, YOU have just as much part in this as they do! God bless you so much!And may He fill you with the peace and strength that only He can give. Please keep sharing ,and thank you for your honesty as another Sister in Christ who is honest enough to admit ther are days when it’s just not coming all together. Imagine that! and I thought families of people like Selah always had it all”together”.God bless and strengthen you and your hubby. Love and prayers always, Marge from Akron OH.

  • dreamingBIGdreams

    Thanks for this post. Although you didn’t write this for me, I feel as though it was. We are in the adoption process and sometimes things don’t look the way I would want them to. Thanks for this reminder of the bigger plan that God only knows and is best for us.

    Nice to “meet” you.

  • Anonymous

    This is the first time reading your blog, and I am very touched by your strength and love. I have been so very moved by the power that God has in little ways shown you that he is there for you. The pictures on your daughters albums are so appropriate and I burst into tears.

  • The Jones Family

    Angie,

    God has given you such amazing insight…thank you for sharing it with us.

    Your sister in Christ,
    Teresa

  • chasingjoy

    “I have cried out for mercy, not thinking about the eternal consequences or the implications of what this meant for my faith.”

    This is such a powerful statement to me. I have never had faith myself but after giving birth to my son Jensen in 2007 I was almost immediately convinced that God exists. Since that time I have struggled with faith. I want it but it isn’t coming. My trouble isn’t with the existence of God but with what I read in the Bible and what I think God means. My husband says I can’t try to make it happen but that he has faith that it will one day come to me.

    Reading about your struggle through this the saddest of situations gives me a stronger sense of what faith really means. My hope is that telling you that will give some little bit of encouragement.

  • Gabelle

    Such a great message. I’ve been reading your book and decided to check out your blog. I feel as if I’ve been led to your work. It applies so well to my life and struggles. Thank you for sharing your experiences. You’re a talented writer with wonderful, inspiring stories. God bless!