A Few Things…

Hello all.
I wanted to write tonight and tell you a few things before I turn in for the night.  Firstly (and with her permission), I want to introduce to you my friend Adrienne.  She is the girl I asked you to pray for in my last post.  Click on her name and meet her sweet family…they are amazing.  I would update you here, but I would love for you to hear it in her words.  She has had a hard week, and I want to thank you for your prayers on her behalf.  I know how much it means to her….and despite the sadness, she says she is feeling peaceful.  One of my prayers for this blog has been that it would be a place where women with shared experiences could connect, and feel safe sharing their stories with each other.  If you feel led, I would ask you to continue to pray for her, her husband Jim, and their son Owen.  I am sure she would love to hear from you; I know that so many of you can relate to this season in their lives.
I cannot tell you how encouraged I am to see how many people are praying for our family.  I spoke to Nicol this afternoon (they are in town for a week or so), and she said that she had read through most of the comments, and was so moved by them.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your love and devotion as you walk with us.  You will probably never know what your words and prayers have meant…we are so blessed to have you.
Amy Perry (who sings in Selah) came in town on Tuesday to just “be” with us. She lives in California, so this was not an easy thing to do.  She has been cooking, cleaning, and watching our kids all week, and they are as sad as Todd and I are to see her go.  It has been so great to sit around and talk and watch gymnastics on T.V., and laugh together while the kids color ten million pictures and “Aunt Amy” acts like each one is more beautiful than the last.  You are a gift that we treasure dearly, Amy.  
Speaking of women I love and respect….guess who is coming to visit me next weekend? I’ll give you a clue…this time, she knows she’s going to see me….:)  I will make sure and post pictures so you can see what their family is up to these days. I can hardly wait!
As a sidebar, I have to share this story with you because it has had me laughing all day.  Last night as I was putting the girls down for bed, I was reading them a story and Abby started trying to make her hair curl up on the ends.  It was still wet from her bath, so it was actually working.  She would cup it in her hands on each side of her head and press it up so it kind of looked like Patty Duke. This is the conversation that followed.  I’ll warn you now, there is no Bible lesson hiding, just a good giggle.
“What are you doing, Ab? You look like you’re hard at work on a hairstyle.”  She releases her palm and her hair turns up at the ends while Ellie stares, fascinated.
“I’m doing it like the lady at Kroger with the ponytails.”
I have no idea what she is talking about.  In fact, I shop at Publix.
“What lady at Kroger?”
“You know, the one with the bows and the ponytails.  Where you buy your burgers.”
No clue. I stare at her.
“Do you mean Pippi Longstockings?”  
I don’t know why I asked, because my kids have 1)never seen the movie, and I’m pretty sure Pippi never 2) had a part-time gig at Kroger or 3) sold me a burger.  But for some reason, she was the only flip-out hair person I could think of.  What can I say? I dressed up like her for Halloween and I was really proud of my ingenious “undo a wire hanger and wind it through your ponytails to make them stick out” trick.  
Which would have been extra cool had I not been in the eighth grade. 
Let’s just say, I missed the memo that all girls should wear football jerseys with black lines under their eyes or animal costumes to be “festive and adorable.” Awesome choice, Ang.  For future reference, if you don’t want to make Homecoming Court or be invited back, you should definitely wear big black boots and a torn dress and paint freckles on your face for a Junior High Party. 
I might as well have gone as a giant hot-dog.
I digress.
Abby looks at me.  She is confused, and I realize she has no idea what I am talking about. Suddenly it hits me.
“Oh, like WENDY!!!!” I immediately picture the familiar fast-food redhead. Now it’s obvious.  The ponytails, the bows, the flip, the burgers.  I am still not sure where the Kroger thing comes in, but I decide not to press my luck.  I give her a kiss and start to giggle because I am thinking of my ridiculous costume, and how many stories I have like this from my childhood. She smiles and starts to laugh too, even though she has no idea what is so funny.  
“I love you, Abby.  Sleep tight.”  I walk to the door and turn the light off.  From her bed in the darkness, this is what I hear.
“I love you too mommy, but I have a question. Who is “Pee-pee Longstalker???”
I literally cannot stop laughing as I type.  And it reminds me that I haven’t told you about their “adorable” haircuts you all keep asking me about.  Let’s just say it involves my eldest daughter, a treehouse, and a pair of scissors.
Another day….
With much prayer, thanksgiving, and laughter,

The Valley of Baca

So many of you have written to ask me about Greg and Nicol, and I want you to know how much it means to me (and to them).  We went to Chattanooga and spent the day with them last Thursday.  We ate some delicious pizza, then went for ice-cream and on to the Children’s Museum.  It was a day of just watching our kids play and talking about this and that.  There were many conversations about life in general and then we would talk about what they were feeling and what we were feeling, and just the whole thing.  There were moments where we just laughed in spite of the hurt, because our spirits grow weary of the pain.  There are days where we drift farther into the abyss of sadness, where the thought of life ever being normal again is painfully absurd. There are other days where God just sits beside us and we know that we are going to survive this.  Mostly, it’s a mix, I guess.
When we were at the Children’s Museum, the kids did a little “archaeological dig” where they got to wear hats and jackets and climb in the sand to dig for bones.  It was really cute.  There was also a giant Clifford display that they loved, as well as a human-sized bubble-maker.  The girls loved being together, and  do did we.  It was fun to just let them all play and love life together (and also to laugh as several moms STARED at me while I ignored Kate’s nasty diaper because I so wanted to finish ONE grown up conversation…my resistance is strong…they cleared out.)
There are some things I would like to ask you to pray about.  The first is about their house. They have mixed feelings about wanting to be there anymore, and are currently staying with friends.  It has been an incredible blessing to them to have so many who are loving on the and making themselves available.  It is a hard choice to make, and they don’t want to feel rushed in it.  Please pray that the Lord will urge them in the direction they should go, and then give them a peace about whatever that is.  If you feel a strong desire to pray for them to move to Nashville, maybe even to my neighborhood, go with it.  :)
Please pray that God will use this time to strengthen their marriage.  Anyone who has lost a child understands the strain that is usually put on the marriage.  They are holding up really well, but I am praying this because I understand it firsthand.  It is such a foothold for Satan.
Please pray that Summer will not remember more than the good memories she has of Luke, that none of the fear and sadness surrounding the events after his death will stay with her.
Please pray for wisdom and discernment as far as “the next step in life.”  Where do they go? do? Who are they going to be in this “new life?”
Please pray that God would erase from Nicol and Greg’s memory the horrible moments from the night Luke died.  I know for me it is so easy to just play things over and over, and I am asking the Lord to simply erase the hard parts and help them to cling to who he was.
Please pray that the image of heaven will be so overwhelmingly joyful that they will be able to fully resign their hearts to the image of him being there.  I remember someone telling me that Steven Curtis Chapman was praying this for Maria, and I also prayed it for myself.  Lord, show us the Glory of your dwelling place.  
 As I have prayed about this post, I have felt led to ask something of you, my readers and my friends.  The other night I had this idea that we could organize a way to pray for the Sponberg’s specifically through scripture.  I asked the Lord to tell me which scripture He wanted us to pray for them, and He brought to mind one of my favorite Psalms.  It is Psalm 84, and no matter where you are in your walk, I hope that this blesses you.  It is truly one of my favorites, and I think that the idea of so many of us praying over the same words on their behalf would really open a new, fresh flood for them.  
Please prayerfully (and sloooowly:)) read the following Psalm.  I could meditate on this one all day long.  As you read, think about what heaven must be like, and ask yourself if your soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord.  Do you want to be there with Him so badly it hurts sometimes? Does your flesh cry out? I know that most of the time I don’t feel that way, but now that Audrey is there it makes me want it so much more.
This is my prayer request for today, on behalf of The Sponberg’s.  If you feel comfortable, read Psalm 84 (maybe even a few times, or tape it up at work/home so you can see it!), praying for them as you digest it.  These are the words that tell us where our babies are, the words that tell us what we can do in the wake of loss…to remember what heaven is.  
Do you know what my favorite part of this Psalm is?  It is verse 84:6, where it talks about the Valley of Baca.  So easy to skip over, because, seriously, what is Baca?????  Well, I want you to find out for yourself so that you can see how easy it is to “dig down” into scripture. I hope this will become a great tool for you….here we go!!!
2.  You will see the “Resources” heading on the left, and under that you will see “Bible Study Tools.”
3. Click on Commentaries.  I really like “Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible” by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown and also the Matthew Henry Commentary (the Concise one:)…you will see that option.  
4.  After you select a commentary, you will see all of the books of the Bible.  In this case, find Psalm 84….click on it… be blessed by their amazing insights about scripture…how easy is that!!!! You’re learning already!!!  
 The Valley of Baca….they make it a place of springs.  This is my prayer for them. 
Psalm 84
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, O God of Jacob.
9 Look upon our shield,  O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
12 O Lord Almighty,
blessed is the man who trusts in you.
And if you do, feel free to post a comment that just says “praying.”  what an amazing gift to be able to see all of those faithful names, sending prayers for our sweet Nicol and Greg.
I also wanted to let you know that the friend I spoke of the other day did not receive good news at her ultrasound.  It appears that her sweet baby is no longer alive.  She will more than likely have further testing this week, and I am not afraid to pray for a miracle.  Maybe you could pray with me for her as well.
A.F., you are a pilgrim of the rarest sort.  The Lord Himself knows your heart, and your longings.  I want you to know that I am doing as Jacob did once, and I am committed to holding fast until He chooses to bless you, one way or another. I am thankful for you, and with you in spirit.

May God bless you each today, and again, thank you for your prayers.

p.s. the clip that follows is Nicol holding Luke, singing at Audrey’s burial. You will want to pause the blog music to hear her amazing voice. Lord, Jesus, we long for your courts…


So many of you have asked about how I came to be so close to God.  I want to talk a little about that here, and I hope that it speaks to you and encourages you to seek His face.  Before I start, I want to say that if you are not a “believer,” you are welcome here.  I hope you read these words and feel blessed, even if you and I do not share the same Lord.  Your letters and emails have spoken volumes to me about the legacy of my sweet daughter, and I hope you will continue to spend time here with me.  My deepest prayer is that you will feel safe here, and that if you do have questions about the Lord, you will email me and allow me the great honor of trying to fill in some of the blanks with you.  With that said…

Where do I start?
I always loved the idea of God, but He just didn’t seem practical, and for most of my life, “not practical” meant “not necessary.”  I put my full weight into what I could see and touch, and I found out the hard way that this life let me down (several times).  I tried to read the Bible, but it just seemed huge and totally foreign to me. I felt like it had nothing to do with my life.  I decided to read it the whole way through before I made up my mind, but I only got a few chapters into Genesis and I decided it was less fun than trigonometry (I did eventually make it the whole way through and it was incredible).  I hosted “Young Life” in my basement in high school, but truth be told, it was because there were some really cute Christian boys who I wanted to notice me (it didn’t work…turns out they were really coming over for Jesus).  I used to sit on my bed and say “Show me you’re real!” to God and then let my Bible fall open, pointing my finger randomly at the page, positive He was going to give me a scripture that would answer all of my nagging questions (come on, you know you’ve done this too….). He taught me 2 great lessons in my “Bible-pointing” days.
1.  I can’t put God in a box, and I cannot expect Him to show up on my timetable.
2.  I pretty much always end up somewhere in 1st or 2nd Chronicles, wondering why God loves the word “begat” so much. 
Years ago, I sat down with my Bible and I asked the Lord to speak.  Unlike the other times, I wasn’t “testing” Him, I was just wanting to feel His presence with me.  I didn’t do it because I wanted Him to prove anything, but rather because I was hungry for Him.  He led me to two stories within a matter of days, the first being the story of the Lord calling Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-21).  It is still one of my favorites, and includes what was, for me, the key that begins to turn the door of faith.  “Speak, Lord.  Your servant is listening.”  It has become a mantra of sorts to me and I repeat it over and over as I go about my daily life.  I realized that God had created me to be in communication with Him, He wanted me to invite Him into to corners of my life that seemed too small for Him to fit into.  I began to listen, and I invited him to speak.  
The other story is in the Gospel of Luke, where two people are traveling the road to Emmaus.  I decided I was going to read it over and over again, slowly digesting the words and asking God to reveal Himself to me. I did a little word study and found that the word Emmaus means “warm springs,” and that these springs were frequently used for healing purposes. So I began to picture two people walking toward “healing” instead of a place I had never heard of.  If you have a Bible, it is found in Luke 24:13-32.  If you don’t have a Bible, and would like to, please email me and I will send you one.  Here is the gist of the story…
Three days after Christ was crucified, two of His disciples are walking to Emmaus, and they are saddened because they don’t feel convinced that He is risen, nor that He was really the Christ at all.  They are discussing this when a man (Christ) “catches up” to them.  The word used is the Greek word “eggizo” which means “to draw near, approach.”  One commentary I read explained that they must have been walking slowly enough for Him to catch up.  I like that.
They didn’t know who He was.  They told Him all about their disappointment, sharing that they had believed that Jesus was the promised One, but now they doubted. There was no evidence.
There they are, walking with the living Christ, and they have no idea who He is. They are looking past His face and into the abyss that demands proof.  They see his sandals, his hair, his eyes, his robe, but they do not see Him. They continue to walk side by side for miles as He speaks to them, reminding them of everything from Moses to the Prophets, but they do not know their Shepherd.
Finally, they reach their destination.  Jesus acts as if He is going to continue on, and they beg Him to stay for supper.  They long to be in His company so they invite Him to be their guest.
As they sit around the table, the Lord takes the bread and says a prayer. Scripture then says:
“…he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…”
He disappears from their sight immediately and they ask each other, “were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” It all made sense now…He was the great Rescuer.
As soon as they recognize this, they travel to Jerusalem to share their news.  We have seen Him!!! He is risen!!!
I realized that in this beautiful story, God had posed a very important question to me, and He may be asking you the same.

Where are you on the road to Emmaus?

I thought about the way that I had finally slowed down enough to let Him catch up to me, the way I walked for years beside Him and never really knew who He was.  Then I thought about the way I was drawn to Him, and invited Him to stay with me.  And then, the bread was broken, and I saw Him for who He was.
And just as the disciples said, I remembered the way my heart had burned for Him, even before my eyes were opened.  I love the Greek word in this scripture. It is “kaio,” and it means, “to set on fire, to be consumed
It all became really simple to me, and it helped me understand the walk of the believer in a tangible way.  As you travel,
1.  walk slowly, deliberately with thoughts of Him on your mind (He will catch up).
2.  listen when He speaks (you will want to be with Him longer).
3.  invite Him to stay (He will accept).
4.  acknowledge who He is when He reveals Himself to you (You are Jesus Christ, the son of God.  You were crucified, and paid the full penalty of my sin. You died on the cross and were resurrected on the third day.  You are now in heaven, where I will spend eternity with you). For those of you who are looking for the fancy Christian words, this step is what we call “being saved.”
5.  allow yourself to be consumed with love for Him (you will want to go and tell the others).  
I hope this encourages you to open your Bible and ask the Lord to reveal Himself in His words. To make it come alive for you as you read.  Before you begin, say a prayer asking Him to “slow you down, ” and help you focus on the words. Sometimes I just read the same sentence over and over until I feel like I am ready to move on to the next.  I had to get past my “speed-reader” tendencies and see Scripture for what it was…God’s letter of love to us, His workmanship.
I realize that this does not answer all of the questions you have asked about how I came to be where I am with the Lord, but it is a first step.  It is my prayer that before I continue, you will open His word and be blessed by the God who loves you enough to walk alongside you and cause your heart to burn within you.
Have a blessed Sunday.  If you have never believed in Him before, I am praying that today is the day of broken bread.
Speak, Lord.  Your servants are listening…
p.s…..here we are at the Hope Clinic on Friday with Renee and Lauren, giving them the check!!!! Thank you Tippa!!!! May God do amazing things with your faith:)
pps. Okay, i know this is completely random, but I have gotten a couple e-mails about my last post…for clarification, if you are doing the math on when we got married and when we conceived our first baby, I will save you the mental energy.  We did not have sex until we were married.  Sorry to be so blunt, and I’m sure this is more information than you need, but you know me-I say it like it is:)


One of the best days of my life, no question.
So many of you have emailed/posted to ask about my sweet miracles Ellie and Abby, and it means the world to me that you care enough to ask. I just poured a cup of hot tea (thank you, Kristin), the house is quiet, and it still smells like a home-cooked meal (I haven’t cooked in weeks…progress!)  I thank God for these simple moments, where normalcy sneaks up on me.  I sat with the girls as they fell asleep, and I thought about a time, not so long ago, when we didn’t know if we would get to have them in this life.  I am a terrible at keeping journals (although I have a full stash of fresh, beautiful ones in my kitchen drawer…I have an addiction to buying pretty notebooks), and I don’t (everyone, prepare to gasp!) scrapbook.  No, seriously.  I get stressed out because there are too many options…brads, paper-crimpers, stamps, special pens…I am sweating as I type.  I can barely buy shampoo without spending 10 minutes smelling them all.  So, this is a great way to talk about my life and have something to look back on years from now.  And it’s just black and white and true. I love that.  
A little background…Todd and I were married on August 26th, 2001, just before 9/11.  We found out in December that we were expecting our first baby, and we were shocked.  I was only about 7 or 8 weeks along when I miscarried, but it was long enough to fall in love with the baby. I have vivid memories of standing in the bathroom of our little apartment brushing my hair and crying tears of joy because I was going to be someone’s mommy.  It wasn’t meant to be. I wasn’t where I am now with the Lord, and to be honest, I felt like I had been abandoned. I went to the library and checked out a book about miscarriage, crying and clinging to it every night.  In March, I was on the road with Todd in Maryland and I told him I thought I was pregnant again.  I went to the store and bought a test, and when I got back to the hotel I said, “You know if I’m pregnant, you are never going to forgive yourself for not coming to Walgreens with me.” We laughed and I walked into the bathroom.  Todd says I walked out about 10 seconds later with a huge smile.  He also said he should have gone to Walgreens. 
I checked out a book on being pregnant, and walked on eggshells for a few weeks waiting to see what would happen.
At our first ultrasound, we were staring at the screen to see a heartbeat, and Susanna kept saying, “You see it, Todd? Right here.” He looked confused.  I told him he could tell us if he didn’t see it; he didn’t need to be embarrassed about it.  He told us that he did see the heartbeat, but he was wondering what this other flickering was.  
Susanna moved the ultrasound wand up a little on my tummy and there they were.  Two little heartbeats.  I screamed.  
I went back to the library (same check out girl) and got a couple books on twins.  She smiled at me and laughed.
“Quite a year you’re having, honey!” She scanned the books and told me about her twin cousins, who, based on her description, are probably in prison by now. She thought it was hilarious.  I thought I was going to puke on the counter.
In late September, I went to Alaska with Todd for some concerts.  I felt uncomfortable, but I figured that it was part of pregnancy, so I didn’t really think much of it.  We had a great trip, and when I got home (I was 24 1/2 weeks along), Dr. Trabue said he thought that even though everything was going well, he thought I should have another ultrasound.  I know that was the voice of God, and I am convinced that we would not have them if he had not been obedient to this prompting.  It was a terrible day.  Many of the feelings I had with Audrey’s ultrasound were bad memories from this one.  The sweet man started the scan, and instantly, his face dropped.  He told us that something was wrong, and I started shaking.  I asked him if they were alive. Actually, I think I told him to tell me they were alive.  I will never, never forget what he said.
“They are alive right now.”
The supervisor came in and explained what was going on.  Basically, I was dilated more than the size of their heads, and my bag of water was “exposed.” My cervix was about 3 mm (if you are in this business, or have any experience with this, you know that this is bad…really bad). They barely let me stand up to go to the car.  We went straight to the hospital.  There were a couple days in there where they weren’t sure what was going on, because my cervix looked normal…it turned out that it was changing constantly, and depending on the exact minute they did the scan, it either looked normal or horrendous.  They told me I needed to check myself in and plan on being there until I delivered. One of the first nights I was there, a nurse came in and found me crying.  I told her I wanted the truth about what they thought was going to happen to my babies.  She was incredibly sweet, but she explained that they were both well under a pound, and on “the cusp of viability.” I remember the words.  I remember the smell of hospital soap.  I remember that I already loved them so much that I fought every minute I could to have them.
It turned out to be a lot of minutes.  Ten weeks to be exact.
I was on magnesium sulfate for three and a half weeks (the stuff is nasty…I hallucinated that my IV pole was a robot and told Audra to let the trick-or-treaters in one night…she told me she loved me, put on a Jim Brickman CD, and turned off the lights).  I was on  a lot of medication to keep me out of labor, including a pump thing that I had to inject myself with.  Time passed slowly, slowly.  I was really scared and depressed, and I want to tell you something else, because we are all friends here, and I think you should know.
I hardly ever opened my Bible.
I believed in Him.  The whole story.  I loved Him fully, but I learned to keep Him at arm’s length in the event that He let me down.  I hate that part of the story, and if I could do it over…well, I can’t.  I just have to know that He pursued me even when I acted like a jilted bride. He wanted me when I didn’t want Him.  He taught me about Himself, even as I resisted loving Him back.  I am forever grateful for the tenderness He showed me during that time, and the grace He showed me when I came running back with remorse in my heart.  
At 34 1/2 weeks, they had to send me home because my insurance wouldn’t pay for me to be there anymore.  I went home, and a few days later they let me stop taking some of my medication and I went into labor.  I pushed twice and Anna Elisabeth was welcomed into the world.  Two minutes and one push later, Abigail Grace followed. At 4.11 and 3.11 respectively, they were really tiny. Abby wouldn’t cry when she was born and they were worried about her so they whisked her away before I could see her.  They brought Ellie to me and I squeezed her and kissed her and smelled her and just loved her completely.  
Abby was in the NICU for almost 3 weeks, trying to get her weight up.  She kept having “spells” where she would stop breathing and they would have to keep her for a few more days. Todd and I brought Ellie home and about 10 minutes after we set down her baby carrier, he left to go on his Christmas tour.  I would nurse Ellie, pump, drive to the hospital, nurse Abby, pump, nurse Ellie, go home….and on and on. I felt so divided.  My husband was gone, my baby was in the hospital, and Ellie was with me.  I cried every night dreaming about when we would be together, praying Abby would be with us for Christmas (she was).
I want to tell you more, to tell you who they are and how many ways God has blessed us through their miracle, but I know it’s late, and my tea has gotten cold. 
Another day, right?
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the incredibly kind Tippa, who bid almost $600 on a purse that she will never carry.  She actually lives in Belgium, and I have truly been blessed getting to know her heart.  She asked me to keep Coco, although I had already taken it to be mailed when I got her email (it had gone into my “junk” folder, so I almost deleted it). Todd ran to the UPS store and they were really confused, but handed the box back to him. I cried when I read her words to me, not so much because of the purse (although I am blessed by that generosity), but because God showed up in her kindness. I am going to The Hope Clinic on Friday with a check that I have no doubt God will use for His glory.  Tippa, may you be blessed in return (you and I both know what we’re praying for!!!! Quickly, Lord!!! :) )
I also want to tell you that it is great to “know” you all.  I want you to know that I read what you write, and it matters to me.
Lastly, I want to ask for your prayer for a friend of mine who is early on in her pregnancy and praying that God will bless her with a healthy baby…there are some complications, and I covet your thoughts on her behalf.  I will keep you posted when I have her permission, but for tonight, know that there is a woman with life growing within her, and she is asking the Lord the same thing I did almost 6 years ago…may God bless her as richly as he did me, and may He be glorified in the midst of it.
Love and thanks,

I want to know you…

In the past few days, I have come to find out that some of my correspondences (more than one situation) were based on fictitious people.  I was hurt to know this, but more than that, I want to know the real people and love them for who they are, not who they felt like they had to pretend to be.  I prayed earnestly during my conversations with these individuals (over the course of weeks, months of writing them), and I know that God will use those prayers to reach them and bring them closer to Him.  That is more than I can ask for, and I am grateful to have had that chance, even if it didn’t look the way I thought it did. If you are one of those people, I am not angry, and I would love the chance to get to know (the real) you.  I know God will bless your decisions to be honest with me and I respect you tremendously.  He is a God of grace and of forgiveness…I am honored to have the opportunity to extend that same forgiveness.
As a result of this “I want to know you too!”  feeling, a dear friend suggested I change my settings, so you may notice that you can no longer post as “anonymous.”  It is certainly NOT to discourage anyone from writing….I love to read what you share, and look forward to it everyday.  It is because I really want to know you, to see your faces and your names….please don’t stop sharing your hearts with me! 
Thanks for understanding,
p.s. Can you believe Coco sold for $560?!?!?!?! I am so excited!!!!!! Now it’s and even better Mother’s Day present! I bet the other people selling similar purses on Ebay are really confused….
***Update*** Susan, who commented at 11:47 on the the”vous et nul autre” post included a beautiful quote from Melody Beattie on gratitude.  I think God is so great when He shows up unexpectedly….a few people have written and asked what book I was reading when I saw the story of the wedding bands….it was “The Lessons of Love” by, you guessed it, Melody Beattie.
Thank you, Susan.  And so nice to meet you:)

Vous et Nul Autre

A few days ago I came across a book that I hadn’t seen in years.  I was re-arranging our bookshelves to try and make them neater (go figure), and pulling out old memories as I went.  I read it when I was in college, and although it was faded, I could still tell what I had highlighted. I flipped the pages and came to a section that had received the coveted “highlighted and starred” marking.  Highlighted usually means I liked what I read, and starred means it’s something I want to carry with me.  The author was talking about how she and her husband bought each other Shakesperean poesy rings, engraved with the words “Vous et Nul Autre.”  

I had no idea what it meant, but it was French and it sounded terribly romantic. 

I am looking at my wedding ring as I type, remembering the day that Todd proposed to me. I stood in front of him while he opened a ring box and I knew that I loved him more than I ever thought I would love somebody.  If you have been blessed enough to meet him, you will know what I mean when I say this. He is just “good.”  
I have a picture on my desk of Todd as a little boy.  He is bent over with his chin supported by the palm of his hand, obviously sulking about something.  His face is wrinkled in frustration, and his eyes are staring at the ground.  When I asked his mother if she knew why he was so upset, she said that it was because his sisters were telling him that one day they were going to get married. Apparently he wasn’t too keen on the idea of them not needing their little brother anymore.  
As a sidebar, these are the same sisters who:
1. Told him (repeatedly) that if they could cut his hair, he would look just like Donny Osmond. They did. He didn’t.  
2. Told him if he sucked on a bouillon cube (yeah, the kind that flavors a whole pot of water…), eventually he would get to the chocolate on the inside.  I have to admit, that’s clever.
3.  Convinced him one day that his voice echoing in a large canyon was actually a man named “Echo.”  Todd would scream, “Hey Echo! ” and then when the “man” would repeat him (ummm, yeah, every time), he would get frustrated. He told me that he was so excited that there was someone else who spoke English that he wanted to invite him over for dinner even though he was irritated that “Echo-man” kept imitating him instead of answering.
That was one dedicated kid.
I look at pictures of my Toddy growing up, and I just love his sweet face.  I always hoped that if we had a little boy he would look just like him (minus the Donny-do). He is not that different now from how I picture him then.  Just a sweet, loving, good boy who wanted to make the world right.  
The day after we met, we got into a van with a group of people and I sat next to him.  I was really glad we were all slammed in because it meant that my leg had to touch his while we drove.  I remember playing flag football and scoring the first touchdown because I wanted him to notice me.  I remember how I waited for him to call. I remember the way he surprised me with the antique wedding ring I had fallen in love with.  His hands were shaking and he bent down and I just kept thinking that it couldn’t be real.  We have the whole thing on video, me jumping up and down and hugging him, then slow dancing with our heads together, wondering what life was going to be like when we walked outside. 
What is our marriage?  It’s playing cards in bed.  It’s laughing hysterically at the parts of a movie that nobody else thinks are funny.  It’s me looking up from my book to see Todd waving at me as he mows the lawn.  Its dragging him to one more store looking for the perfect gift.  It’s burnt dinner (which he would never complain about), clean laundry (which most likely, he did), and staying up until 4 a.m. watching a whole season of 24. It’s telling the truth, even when it hurts. It’s spending your nights in a hospital room waiting to know if your twin daughters will live or not. It’s ordering Chinese food and singing along to eighties music. It is starting at least 10 Bible Studies together and then getting distracted talking about life instead.  It’s Todd and Angie, and it’s good.  
But it’s not perfect.
Sometimes it’s laying side by side in bed watching the ceiling fan spin, hands clasped, knowing that the grief lies with us. It’s slamming a door because we want her back.  It’s the sharp voice that comes out of you when you just meant to ask where your shoes are.  It’s your heart breaking because you can’t fix it all.  It’s wishing you could rewind to a chapel and tell the newlyweds that there really is some “worse” with the “better.” 
It’s buying your wife a purse that she has wanted for years in the hopes that it would make her smile on a very difficult Mother’s Day.  And even better, it’s smiling knowingly and hugging her when she says God told her to give it to the highest bidder because He had something better planned.  
It’s believing that what God does with what we give Him is far greater than what we could have done with it ourselves.

Toddy, you are the love that made it all worth waiting for.  Happy Father’s Day, and all our love.

You and no other…

Empty Pages

I love that a bunch of you commented on how great it was to see me smiling in the pictures I posted.  A couple of you said it seemed like I was getting my “spunk” back.  I feel like there are glimpses of it every day, but yesterday was really hard.
I found a notebook that I hadn’t seen around for a few months, and when I opened it I saw a page where I had been doodling potential baby names.  It must have been around November or so.  At first, there were boy names and girl names.  A few pages later, it was just girl names. Then it just said Audrey Caroline Smith.  
And there she was.
As the days passed, I kept notes about what I needed to be doing as I prepared for her. Fresh tears came as I saw my “lists.”  Mixed in with Christmas ideas for my friends and family were memos to myself about where I had found the best price on a stroller and what I was going to do to get Kate’s room ready for two kids instead of one.  I guess it was stuff that seemed important at the time.  A couple things were crossed off, but most of them weren’t; there just wasn’t time, I guess.
The rest of the notebook is blank.
I kept flipping back and forth between the words and the emptiness, thinking of all the ways that I would have rather filled the pages.  
One of the hardest things for me about losing Audrey is that I want to know who she was going to be.  I just wanted the chance to love her for a little longer.  I stare at her little face in pictures and sometimes I can’t do anything but curl up in a ball and miss her. So last night, that is what I did.  I just sat and missed her.
Many of you have sent me links to other people’s blogs because they have lost a child.  I want you to know that I go to every single one.  I don’t always comment, but I pray.  I look at the sweet family pictures and read people’s words of love and faith, and I weep alongside strangers because I know what it feels like to have a half-empty notebook. One of the hardest parts is the entry before the loss (if it was unexpected), because it seems like life is just so normal, no indication of what is just on the horizon.  You want to scream at the computer (or in my case, the notebook) like it’s an old movie where the heroine doesn’t see the villain, but you do. 
I looked at my words and I wanted so badly to be able to go to that girl, at that moment, and tell her that she didn’t need to rearrange the room.  She didn’t need to buy burp-cloths.  She had no idea. 
I had no idea.
I don’t know why this affected me so much, but I do know that last night, I fell asleep crying because I missed my sweet Audrey so desperately.  And I thought of Greg and Nicol and the way they were probably doing the same.  I thought about the fact that Luke’s little onesies were still in the laundry room and his diapers on the nightstand.
I can’t imagine what God must have felt when we walked into a small, unfamiliar ultrasound room months ago, and the pages went blank.  And tonight, the only thing I can think to say is a 5 word sentence that hurts to write.
I want them back, Lord.

I want my Audrey, safe and sound.

Sweet Luke, come back.

I’m not crazy, I know this can’t happen, not in this life.  But I am crying out for my baby, for our babies.  For all the pages…Oh Lord, why???
I don’t know how to say this in a way that adequately connotes what I felt last night and all day today, but I will try my best.  
It isn’t easy for me to write.  It isn’t easy because it makes me think through things I might rather leave undone, and it makes me vulnerable in a way that is humbling.  But, in some way that only God can make sense of, He is using you all to teach me about myself, and even about the way I love my daughter. She has inspired me to do something I never would have done before because of my own fear, and the beauty is that I have been so blessed in return.  You don’t even know me, and yet you take the time to send me letters, prayers, and encouragement. Because of this blog, I have seen how God’s people love.  
What a tremendous, beautiful gift you all have given me.
I kept thinking today about the symbolism of the empty notebook, telling the Lord how that image stings in it’s finality. I kept thinking about my faraway stranger-friends who encourage me to feel what I feel.  
I think I realize now what I didn’t last night, because of you.
The pages won’t stay empty forever.  They will be written in honor of Audrey, and in honor of Luke.  They will be written for every baby that has left this earth before mommy could tuck her in.  
I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart for encouraging me to pick up my pen, to tap my keyboard, and to start to fill in the emptiness.  To love her with my words, and to share her when she couldn’t share herself.  
It has been a hard few weeks.  I know that God is in the midst of it, as He always is, but it hurts to be without them.
Thank you for your prayers, and for offering to be a part of our grief.
May you be blessed as richly in return.

My Purse…

In case you are curious about the fate of my purse…

happy bidding :)
****update**** I was notified by a sweet reader that I am not allowed to put an item up for “charity auction” unless I use their charities!!!! eek!!!!!! I had no idea!!!! I am in the midst of re-posting the item legally….if you already bid, please come back and do it all over again in a bit when I get the new link.  I will post it here ASAP!!!!! Thanks so much…
****another update….**** here is the new link, with some modifications so I won’t get in trouble with Ebay…just so you all know, 100% of the proceeds will go to the Hope Clinic in Nashville.  Let’s try this again….good luck!!!!  
****and yet one more update…IM SO SORRY!!!!!! apparently, I can’t even have the word “charity” in the auction, so I have rewritten it (again!) and you will have to re-bid…..don’t give up on me!!!!! it’s for a good cause!!!! or, maybe God is telling me not to sell it……:) Nope, that’s not it…shucks.

The Threshing Floor

For some reason, when I am in the midst of a crisis, I feel the need to clean.  I want my house to be spotless, everything in its place.  I have heard that this can be part of the grieving process, and it makes sense.  There is a need for something to be controlled and in order.
The day we buried Audrey, we had our entire family come over to our house afterwards to share a meal.  For the first 45 minutes, I was upstairs scrubbing my bathroom floor like a maniac.  Todd came to check on me and asked if I wanted to come downstairs.  I told him I needed another half hour and the cucumber-smelling Target cleaner (made by Method…trust me, worth the $5 investment).  We were at a point in time where the best option was just to go along with whatever seemed normal in that moment, so he got the cleaner and 2 sponges. While our families talked and played outside, Todd and I sat on the cold tile in our funeral clothes and tried to clean away some of the hurt together.  
On Friday night, I decided that the playroom needed to be addressed.  I told the girls what we were going to be doing, and brought in the big black garbage bags.  One for “trash” and the other for “the poor kids.”  We started sorting through old dress-ups, dried up markers, and baby toys that I was holding onto.  A couple minutes into the process, Abby and Ellie began to discuss their plan of attack, and this is what I heard.
“Ellie, let’s give these to the poor kids.” Abby then explains, “They LOVE naked Barbies with crazy hair.” She waves around a ballerina Barbie that looks like she has spent a few hours in the spin cycle.
Excuse me?
“Okay.  And also, let’s give them this.”  Ellie holds up a Ken doll with no head. Yes, I’m serious. “They will really want this guy.” She shoves him into the bag and claps her hands together like she’s really starting to get somewhere.
(Insert “teachable moment” bell here)
“Hey girls, I’m noticing that you are choosing the things that you don’t like for the poor kids.  That doesn’t really make it a sacrifice, it just means you are giving them the things that you don’t play with anymore.” 
They are staring at me, wide-eyed, plan interrupted. I continue.
“It doesn’t mean as much if it doesn’t hurt a little. I want you each to choose something that means something to you and then put it in the bag.”  
At this point, Ellie earnestly asks if I am going to put my new-ish purse in the bag.  I was tempted to make up a story about how poor kids don’t really like Coach bags, but I decided to keep my mouth shut and let the Holy Spirit tell me what I need to keep and what I need to give away.  
The idea of God doing the same with us has struck me many times when I am in the midst of “pruning seasons.”  Years ago, I was reading about the threshing floor in my Bible, and I became fascinated by it.  Basically, it is a place high on a hill (so that the wind can assist the workers), where the chaff and the wheat are separated.  The chaff, which is useless, blows away in the wind because of how light it is.  The grain is heavier so it falls to the ground and is gathered to be harvested.  I cannot tell you how many times God has brought this image to me in the midst of feeling “threshed” in order to remind me that His hands are doing the sorting.  I beg Him to tell me what my offering should be, and then I ask for the strength to give it away.  I guess you all know by now that my family feels the sting of winnowing, and we have all asked many times why we have been chosen.  Late Friday night, I felt like He led me into His word, as He has many times, and promised me that if I would just spend time with Him there, He would reveal a hidden treasure to me.  
I began to sort through all of the references to “the threshing floor” in the Bible, and became more and more entranced by the way it showed up in beautiful stories that I have loved for years.  The first is in Genesis (50:10-11), where Joseph and his brothers are mourning the death of their father Israel (formerly Jacob).  Later, Ruth lays at the feet of Boaz at the command of her mother-in-law, begging to be “redeemed” by him (Ruth 3:6-9).  I urge you to read the book of Ruth if you have never done so…it is a beautiful image of what Christ came to do for us, and plus, it’s really short.  That way you can feel accomplished at having read “an entire book of the Bible….” :)
The story that stood out to me the most begins in 1Ch. 21:18-28, where David is purchasing a threshing floor from Ornan, and although Ornan tells David that he will give it to him free of charge, David insists on paying full price.  He is standing on the ground of “sifting,”explaining that he will not take the easy way.  He will do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, regardless of the price.
I believe fully that I will stand before the Lord one day, and I want to tell Him that I did the same.  I want to say that I was sifted, and that I did what David did next, because when I read these words, I knew I had started to uncover the beauty of what God was revealing to me.
“So David gave to Ornan for the site 600 sheckels of gold by weight.  And David built there an altar for the Lord… (1Ch. 21:25-26)
He built an altar to worship the God who threshes.  
And here is the best part.  If you have a Bible, skip to 2Ch. 3:1.  I pray that God will use this passage with you for the rest of your life, as I know He will for me.
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared to David, his father, in the place that David had appointed on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite…”
The Temple itself was built on a threshing floor.  Oh, what beauty can come of the hurt.  
I cried as I read these words, because although I have always known it to be true in black and white, it is entirely different to be reading it in the midst of the winnowing.  I needed to believe in the harvest that is up ahead, and to trust that God is going to redeem the hurt.
Only God Himself knows why we stand on this ground, but there is something that you and I can do from here, and today, I am choosing to built an altar to the Lord.  I’m not going to say that it is easy, nor that it is painless.  It isn’t.  What I want is my daughter to be asleep in her crib and for Luke to be in his mother’s arms.  And yet, I know this, and I am praying for you to know it too, deep down in a place where nothing has been in a long time.
The God of Jacob, of Ruth, of David, of Solomon, and of you and me wants to help us build where the hurt has been.  I am praying as I write these words that you will be inspired, even in the wake of devastation, to worship Him with eager expectation of the harvest.  
My heart is still broken, I can tell you that much.
My hands, however, are busy.
Oh, Jesus, we know not the hour of redemption.  Teach us to walk closely in step with You, and to believe in what we cannot see from the threshing floor...

Sweet Luke

Hello all.  I promise I will post more soon, but in the meantime, I want to introduce you to Luke.  He was such a beautiful, sweet boy and we all miss him terribly.
Please continue to pray as Greg, Nicol, and Summer try to figure out what life looks like without Luke.  Your words and prayers are more meaningful to them than I could possibly express here, and I want to thank you for extending yourselves on behalf of our family.
Luke with Nicol

Luke with Greg
Luke with big sis Summer
Precious boy…

We love you, baby boy.