Blink

~This post was written in pieces over the past few days.  It was really emotional for me, and I could not do it all at once.  The Lord beckoned me back to it until it was finished, and I am so glad He did…it was good for my soul to be near Him in these moments…thank you, Lord.

Several weeks ago, I received an email from a woman who is a photographer, and she wanted to let me know that she had decided to do an “auction” in honor of Audrey. The top bidder would receive a session with her.  I was so honored, and I immediately went to her website to check out her work. I have a life-long love for photography, and I am a little bit (ok, a lot) picky about what I like.  Well, let me say this.  I loved her work. I sat for at least a half an hour, oohing and aahing at each shot, just to jump to the next and start it all over again.  I decided that my favorite was a beautiful image of a little girl blowing a dandelion, and you can see all of the little fuzzies as they float away from her.  That’s it, I thought.  She captured life.  More on this a little later…

I have a Bible Study on Tuesday mornings with an amazing woman of God (Ms. Nancy Dunn at Forest Hills Baptist Church here in Nashville…9:30 a.m. if you are local and want to join us!). Every time I am there, in the presence of other women of God, I come away refreshed and encouraged, and yesterday was no exception.  On the way out of church, Kate had run into the grass by the car while Abby and Ellie were buckling themselves in, and I turned to Kate and told her to run to me and I would pick her up.  Her eyes lit up and she took off full-force toward my open arms.  I lifted her way above my head and kissed her sweet cheeks on the way down. As I put her into her car seat, Ellie said to me,
“Know what, mommy? I really wish I had a camera, because that was a beautiful picture you just made.”
It caught me off guard, because I didn’t even realize she could see me from where she was sitting.  
“You think so, honey? Well let’s just blink our eyes and keep that one in our heads, then.”  
I smiled at my 3 sweet daughters, and then Ellie and I looked at each other and blinked our eyes…another moment captured and held as a precious memory.
On the way home, I was thinking about what she said and I realized that I see the world in photographs.  I love to take pictures, and I suppose my mind has incorporated a little camera that allows me to freeze moments and store them away.  Last week I was driving to the pool, and to get there I have to pass under these amazing trees that make a canopy over the road, only allowing bits and pieces of light to pass through.  It was beautiful. 
Blink.
I thought about the way it was when I saw Audrey for the first time, red hair and those sweet rosebud lips.  No crying, but there was breath in her, there was life to be lived… I am so glad to meet you, sweet girl…stay with me for awhile…
Blink.
After a hard day of school as a teenager, my dad took me out in his old-fashioned convertible to talk and make sure I was okay.  We drove to this field in the middle of nowhere that he had found a few weeks earlier.  It was amazing, because as soon as the lights went off in the car, what seemed like millions of fireflies danced around us.  I was completely mesmerized, and as the hot September night soaked into our skin, we watched them light up the night, and I felt like God spoke to me.  It is one of the earliest recollections I have of feeling His presence, and to this day, whenever I see fireflies, I remember the way the old leather seats smelled when my father loved me enough to show me that life is beautiful even when it hurts.
Blink.
Me, in a veil I had dreamed of wearing my entire life, and a church full of people who were celebrating the way we loved each other.  I was so nervous because I was sure I would trip and fall, but then the huge wooden doors swung open and I saw him, and I wanted to run to the end of the aisle.
Blink.
“It is very possible that your daughters will not survive. Now is the time to start praying.”
Blink.
“4 pounds, 11 ounces, and the other is 3 pounds, 11 ounces! They are here and they are healthy!”
Blink.
Kate recites her Bible verse from yesterday (A soft answer turns away wrath…thank you, Ms. Nancy’s class ladies!!!) as “A soft answer turns away the rats.” I spit my coke out all over the car and tell her she is brilliant and that I love her for being exactly who she is. This morning, she was acting up and using a less than desirable tone with her sister, and I asked her if she remembered the scripture I had taught her yesterday.  She nodded yes.  I asked her to say it to me.  She replied, “I think the Bible says I am going to time out.” This time it was coffee.
Blink.
Abby, in the backseat of the car, eyes closed and hands in the air, worshiping with the music as she has seen me do a thousand times before. 
Blink.
“Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief…
Blink.
Todd surprises me at our wedding with a song he wrote for me.  It is called “After the Rain,” (seriously) and it tells the story of how he knew he was supposed to marry me one day when he prayed during a thunderstorm, and moments later it just stopped with no warning.  
Blink.
My brother-in-law Greg calls, and tells me he went to play golf.  He says he cried on the way home because he realized he will never play golf with his son Luke.  I never mention the conversation to anyone, but the next day, Ellie draws a picture of Audrey and Luke.  She says they are playing in heaven.  I look closer and see something I have never seen her draw (because as far as I know, she has never heard of the game), and I ask her what they are playing. “Golf.” she says, and skips out of the room…
Blink.
These moments, and millions of others, engraved in the beautiful book I am making in my head.  As I drove home, the Lord spoke to me, and I want to share with you what He said, because it is not an exaggeration to say that I believe it has changed my life.
Angie, sweet daughter of mine.  You know, I do the same with you…every day, every hour, every moment. .. 

Blink.

I was speechless as my spirit understood what He was saying to me.  Not necessarily in words, audibly, but it was as if I knew something profound I had never known before, and I knew God had imparted it to me. 
I have choices, every second of the day, to serve my Lord.  To honor Him with my speech and with my thoughts, with the way I love those around me and the way I worship Him. Every moment, there is another opportunity, and I want to use as many of them as He will allow. In fact, Scripture tells me that one day I will stand before Him, and I will (symbolically) hand the King of all Kings a tattered scrapbook of my days.  It is up to me to decide what the pages will reveal.
I was washing the dishes last night and thinking about what the Lord had said to me, and I heard the girls fighting. I raised my voice more than I meant to, and I thought to myself, “Wow. I don’t look like myself in that one. Let me try that again.” I apologized to them for my tone and let my hands drift into the hot water.  Now that one felt better for me too, Lord.  
There are many, many pages I want to rip up and hide…maybe you do too. But that shouldn’t consume me.  Rather, I want to focus on the beauty of this gift that the Lord has given.
It is the gift of this breath, this moment, this photograph.  My offering, captured.
We need not dwell on the things we wish we had done differently, nor should we even give too much thought to what the future will look like.  We need not worry about the pages, but rather this very simple fact.
I have this moment. Right now. And I want to make it good.
I am sitting cross-legged in an old chair, pouring out my heart to you, because above every other thing I can think of, I want these words to be a beautiful photograph for the Lord I love.
Blink.
In a few minutes, I will go find my children their dresses and we will go to a cook-out with friends.  As I snap their sandals and brush their hair, I will tell them how I love them and how grateful I am to be their mommy.
Blink.
Todd just came in to tell me about something he is reading and I nodded absent-mindedly as my thoughts drifted everywhere but his voice.  No, I thought, I don’t want it to look like that. I want to love deeply, and have him know that I care about what he cares about.  I want to show him that I am here to listen, and that he matters to me. 
Blink.
I met a woman who does not know about Jesus. She is broken, bruised, hurt, alone.  I want to show her the way He loves her, to inspire her to let me into the places she runs from. I want to make His name known. I want my life to be lifted up to Him, offered to Him, spilled out for Him…
Blink.
“She is gone…”
Blink.
A crown of thorns, piercing his sweat-drenched brow…oh, my sweet Savior…
Blink.
You refused the bitter wine but drank deep of the cup that would not pass. 
Blink. 
I see you there, Lord, and I will not turn from You.  Not in my joy, not in my agony, not ever. Not ever. I will remember the scars, and the gracious Love that the world could not believe…
Blink.
Oh, my Jesus…speak to us through your Word…
…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you…Philippians 4:8-9

I have always loved this verse, and I have been meditating on it for the past few days.  I hope you are blessed and encouraged by it tonight…
As for the photographer I mentioned? Her name is Amy, and her business is called “Images of Grace.” (And no, I don’t think that’s a coincidence:)
I came home from church on Sunday (after the message on Providence), and was trying to trust God with my fears.  I opened my email and saw a message from Amy, saying that the bidding had ended.  I cried and cried when I saw the amount, because it answered an unspoken prayer request that Todd and I have had for weeks (almost to the dollar!).  Thank you, Rachel.  You were most certainly used by the Holy Spirit, and I am still speechless, because it was a confirmation of something I have known for years, but love to be reminded of…
I’m still here, Angie.  Tucked away behind this trusty old camera.  Now remember, you have this moment, child… That’s it, turn your head a little more toward me…Do you trust me? A little more toward me…there…perfect…

Blink.

Papyrus

***Link added!***  If you would like to hear the entire service I refer to in this post, click here and meet my wonderful pastor, Scott Patty.  It’s the one called “Providence” and it’s free!!!!Just click on the mp3 button to download… Your comments and emails have been a source of great strength to me this week, and PRAISE GOD I am doing really well without my meds, and having absolutely no side effects…it is miraculous!!!! Thank you for your encouragement and continued prayers…I’ll be back here soon…I feel a post brewing…:) Have a great day!
I woke up yesterday morning with fear darting through my body like electric current.  I couldn’t move, and my heart was beating so hard I could hardly find my breath.  Gasping, trembling, consuming fear.  I closed my eyes and prayed for the Lord to be near to me, nearer than the terror.  I was paralyzed as I cried out to Him, and as much as I wanted to, I could not put my feet on the floor. After a few minutes, I felt like He told me to stand up and start the day.  I was crying, shaking my head, begging my legs to get me to the shower, where I would try to figure out how to get my clothes and makeup on for church.
For several years, I have taken anti-anxiety medication to help me with moments like these. Last weekend, through a series of events, I felt that the Lord was telling me that it was time to stop taking it (I am not a doctor, and I am by no means trying to give advice on starting/stopping medication, I am just telling my story). I was nervous about the timing, but I was certain He had spoken, and therefore confident that He would be my strength.  This morning felt like more than I could handle, and I began to chase my thoughts through the dark corridors.  
As we sat down for church, I noticed that the name of the sermon was “Providence.”  I felt my body start to settle into the pew as our Pastor opened in prayer.  I love to be in the house of the Lord, where His peace settles upon me in the most profound ways.  I cried my way through worship, each song tugging me closer to the feet of my sweet Lord.  The message was about the birth of Moses.  It is found in Exodus, chapters 1 & 2.  If you have a Bible, you should read the story, and if you don’t have a Bible (and you want one), than you should email me:)
Moses was born to a Hebrew woman during the rule of cruel king who demanded that all Hebrew boys be put to death when they were born.  The midwives who delivered Moses “feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt told them to do…Exodus 1:17″  And so Moses’ mother Jochebed (one of the top contenders for “favorite baby names” this year, I’m pretty sure) kept him with her for about 3 months and then when she could hide him no longer, she put him in a papyrus basket and placed it among the reeds in the Nile river.  
Moses’ sister watched as her brother drifted out farther and farther.  At the same time, Pharoah’s daughter was bathing with her handmaidens in the Nile, and she heard a small cry. She saw the baby in the basket and despite her father’s wishes, she did nothing to harm him. Instead, she sent her handmaiden to fetch the baby, and at that moment, Moses’ sister stepped out from where she had been watching and asked Pharoah’s daughter if she should go find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.  Pharoah’s daughter tells her that she will pay the girl if she does, and the girl goes to get her mother (if you are following this little synopsis, you will realize that this is also the mother of baby Moses).  After she has weaned the boy, he is brought back to Pharoah’s daughter,who raises him as her son.  She names him Moses, which means “drawn out of the water.”  That is how this baby boy, the Hebrew who should have been killed at birth, becomes royalty.  My sister in law Nicol told me she once heard someone say, “she put him in the river a slave, and he was brought out of the water a prince.”  His mother believed in listening to the voice of God, and I am sure that as she set the basket in the water, tears streamed down her face as she wondered if she would ever see him again.  Out of her hands, into the water.  This is the face of obedience, and a most powerful image of trust.    
Moses, as many of you know, would one day lead his people out of slavery and through the parted waters.  He would be a beacon of light for God’s people, and a man who lived his life walking alongside the Lord.  He sought the Lord as a friend, and God spoke to him through many trials throughout the years.  The book of Exodus records many of his “wilderness wanderings” with the Israelites, and one of my favorite scriptures comes from Exodus 14:14, where the Israelites are complaining about their journey. Moses says to them, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still…”
Many, many times during my pregnancy with Audrey, I would recall this verse, and rest in knowing that my God, my strong-tower, my Jesus is in battle for me. I need only to be still. I could talk about Moses all day long, but you will get more from reading it for yourself. Exodus is one of those books in the Bible that people don’t naturally think about reading because it is in the Old Testament and it can seem far-removed from where we are in life now.  Don’t be intimidated…open up and read, and ask the Lord, as Moses did, to “Show me your glory(Exodus 33:18).  He will bless you as you walk alongside Moses, through the desert and right up to the Promised Land.  
One of the great twists in the story of Moses is that God never let him enter the Promised land he worked so hard to get to.  This particular story makes me cry when I read it (although, that’s not necessarily saying much…I cried when I saw “Cars” for the first time.  Yes, the cartoon.). Moses is standing at the edge of the land he has spent most of his life trying to enter, and the Lord says to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it…” Exodus 34:4

This tiny baby, drawn out of the water to be used by our Lord.  He was rescued because God had great things planned for him.  The providence of the Lord allowed the midwives to protect him, ordained that Pharoah’s daughter would be bathing at that exact time, filled his lungs with a cry that would bring her to him, made sure Moses’ sister was near enough to come up with a “plan….” It was beautiful to see them in my minds-eye, as the Lord orchestrated the rescue of Moses.  Beautiful, but painful, because I am not one of those mothers. My mind was screaming these words…
Where were you when my nephew was sleeping in his bed, moments away from his last breath?
Where, oh great providence of God, were you when my daughter’s kidneys began to fail?

I was there, in the river, basket in hand.  Where were you Lord?
I could feel the anger rising up in me as I listened, wondering why the God of the reeds, the God of papyrus, the God of Moses chose something different for my family. My heart was bursting from within me, and the tears were hot on my cheeks.
I wrestled for a good part of the afternoon with my hurt.  Sometimes I think it’s harder to believe the way I do, because I believe with everything in me that He could have changed the story.  This line of thinking inevitably brings me to the question, “Why didn’t He?”  Many people have written with the same question, and I want to tell you that I have thought it through many times, and I have come up with a great theological explanation that I want to share with you.
I have absolutely no idea.
What I do know is this.
The Lord walks beside me as He walked beside Moses, and He knows me by name.  He loves me, and I love Him.  I pushed my baby through the reeds and never saw her again.  And yet, here I am, worshipping the God who allowed it.
I know.  It appears to be an unbalanced courtship.  
I want you to know that as I type these words I am sitting in Starbucks, crying my eyes out, begging God to move my fingers and convey where my heart is resting now.  While I was sitting in church yesterday, I found a page of notes I had taken when I was reading the book “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ” by Madame Guyon a few years ago, and I saw this quote.
“Love, then do what you please…” (St. Augustine)
I am not ashamed to say that I believe the Gospel is true.  I believe that He died for me, that He knows the number of hairs on my head, and that He keeps my tears in a bottle.  I believe there was a real man named Moses, and that the Lord really parted the waters.  I believe in the scarred hands and feet. I believe in the providence of God, even when it feels contrary to what my heart desires.
I have seen the way my Audrey has brought people to the cross.  I have seen the way she has impacted my own life, and the lives of people I may never meet.  It doesn’t mean I don’t want her back, or that I never hurt or doubt.  I do. Every single day.
Scripture says that the Lord Himself buried Moses, and to this day, nobody knows exactly where his body lies.  We do not know what Moses said to God as he breathed his last breath, but we know that he fulfilled his purpose on this earth.  
In his case, it was 120 years.  In Audrey’s, it was less.
I have written more than I meant to, and if you have made it this far, I want to encourage you in your walk today.  He has not abandoned us.  He is the God of the River, the God of broken dreams and crushed spirits, the God of Moses, the God of you.  He is trustworthy, and my prayer for you today is that you will press into Jesus as the words spill like broken perfume through the pain…
Love, then do what you please.
Angie

Family and Books

***Update***Just wanted to let you all know that Lifeway (Christian bookstore chain) is having a sale, and several of the books I mentioned are on sale until the 26th.  The Jesus Storybook Bible is only $8.50 and the Henrietta Mears book (What the Bible is all about Bible Handbook) is 50% off, so it’s $8.99.  I think it’s the best of it’s kind, so if you are wanting to dig into scripture, this is a great place to start!!!! You can do it!!!
Also, I am so excited about the Bible Study.  I will post more when I have a better idea of the details, but I am sad to say I don’t think we will all be able to squeeze into my house, so I am looking into a few locations that might let us borrow space.  Please pray that we can find a good spot/time that works well for everyone.  I also wanted to let you know that we are going to be doing “Stepping Up” by Beth Moore, and I am working on figuring out a way to include all of you who are interested in joining us.  I am praying through details, so please join me in asking the Lord to bless the “planning.”  I am so, so excited to share this time with you.  I will keep you posted…in the meantime, head over to Lifeway and get some good deals!!!
Hi all!  I hope you are well.  The past few days have been really busy (in a good way), so I haven’t had a chance to post.  Nicol, Greg and Summer are in town, as well as Todd’s brother Jack, his wife Molly, their kids Bella and Jackson, and my in-laws.  I love a house packed with family, and it has been amazing to just spend time together…we are so incredibly blessed to have each other.
I have been praying for the past few weeks about this, and I am really excited to mention it here and see what God has in store.  I am thinking about starting a Bible study (probably Beth Moore but I haven’t decided for sure) and I would love to invite you to be a part of it. We will meet at my house, either every week or every other week depending on what is good for everyone.  If you are interested (and live in Nashville!), please email me at angelac519@gmail.com and put “Bible Study” in the subject line.  I would love the chance to fellowship with you, and would consider it an honor to share some time with you as we seek the Lord together. I am thinking that maybe a group of 15 would be a good size…let me know if you would like to come:) If you are not a believer, but would like to learn more about Christianity, please know that I would LOVE to have you.  I am so looking forward to connecting with you…
Also, I wanted to let you know that Danielle’s Blogs are on sale through the end of the month, so if you are thinking of making over your blog, now’s the time! I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed working with her, and I know you will too. 
And finally (sorry this post is all over the place…it’s late and my brain is tired:)), I am going to pass along this list of some of my favorite books.  Many of them have been instrumental in shaping my faith-walk, and I would love for you to have the opportunity to soak in the wisdom they have to offer.  I categorized them based on several emails I have received, and I hope this is helpful to you.  I have vivid memories of standing in a train station bookstore with my dad in Japan and fanning books from cover to cover in front of my face so I could smell the pages.  I haven’t changed much:)  I am praying you will be as inspired as I have been by these amazing books…may you yearn for the face of the Lord as you read.
Bible:
I usually read from the NIV
The Bible in 90 Days (Cooper)…this is the NIV version, but broken down into sections so that you read the whole Bible in 90 days…this is how I finally read the whole thing!
Bible Commentaries:
Believer’s Bible Commentary (MacDonald)
NIV Commentary (Bruce)
I would also recommend a Hebrew/Greek Lexicon-this will give you the meaning of the original words used in scripture…so interesting and helpful for study.
It’s also good to have a concordance (I use Strong’s) to look up/cross-reference words you find in scripture. 
Learning the Bible:
What the Bible is All About (Mears) LOVE this book!!!! It is big, but it is really good. 
The Bare Bones Bible Handbook (George) Good beginner book.
How to Study Your Bible (Arthur)
Praying God’s Word (Moore)  Broken down by topic (depression, anxiety, unforgiveness, despair etc), this helps you find scriptures related to different strongholds.
Prayer/Meditation:
Intimacy With Christ (Guyon)
Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ (Guyon)
The Seeking Heart (Fenelon)
The Valley of Vision…a collection of Puritan Prayers
General Christian:
The Hiding Place (Ten Boom)
The Ragamuffin Gospel (Manning)
Sabbath (Muller)
Connecting (Crabb)
Prayer (Foster)
Celebration of Discipline (Foster)
The Sacred Romance (Curtis & Eldridge)
Wild at Heart (Eldridge)…for men
What’s So Amazing About Grace (Yancey)
The Pursuit of God (Tozer)
Desiring God (Piper)
Same Kind of Different as Me (Hall & Moore)
Blue Like Jazz (Miller)
Your God Is Too Safe (Buchanan)
Mere Christianity (Lewis)
Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis)
Daily Devotionals:
My Utmost for His Highest (Chambers)
A Diary of Private Prayer (Baillie)
Streams in the Desert (Cowman & Reimann)
Bible Studies:
Anything by Beth Moore…my favorites are The Patriarchs and Breaking Free, but all the ones I have done are amazing.
Anything by Priscilla Shirer…she is also ridiculous.
Women Gifted for Ministry (Towns)  
Parenting:
Grace Based Parenting (Kimmel)
Parenting the Way God Parents (Koonce)
Easy Homeschooling Techniques (Curry)
Children of Character I (Freeman)
I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart:
I will tell of all your wonders.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing praise to your name,
O most High.
Psalm 9:1-2
Have a great night…I will write again soon.
Angie

Elias is on his way!!!

***7/13 update***Everyone is doing great…I haven’t downloaded my photos yet, so if you want to meet Elias, please go to Jessica’s blog…they have posted several videos and pictures of the sweet pumpkin pie.  We are going to head over this evening with the girls, so hopefully I will get some more photos then.  I just wanted to thank you all for your prayers and words of encouragement while Jess was in labor/delivering.  I know I don’t know all of your faces, but you have been my friends for months, and I am so glad you walked this with us as well.  I am grateful for you…each of you.  I can’t wait to squeeze your necks in person one day and tell you what you have meant to me.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  


***Elias is here!!!!*** He was born at 5:03 am and weighed 8.36 pounds…he is absolutely adorable. We are all exhausted but just so grateful that he is here and that he is healthy. Jessica is doing well. We are trying to decide who he looks like, but we aren’t sure yet. Thank you so much for your prayers during the night…I will post photos after I get a good nap:)

***12:00 a.m. update*** Jess got an epidural and she is resting..she was on a really high dose of pitocin, and just was not progressing. It was really, really bad pain…she was UNREAL. We are so proud of her hard work, and she is comfortable right now, which we are so grateful for. If you are still awake, please keep praying for her. It is going to be a long night but we are so excited to meet him!!! Come on Elias!!!

***10:40 update*** no baby, not progressing much…wow, jess is amazing. please keep praying…she is in so much pain but she is so determined.
please pray for:
-her headaches
-her labor to progress
-no more medical intervention unless totally necessary for hers/elias’ sake
-her pain level
-pockets of rest
-a baby to come soon!!!!!!
thank you so much for your comments…we are reading them and they are encouraging to all here…i will keep you updated after she is checked again in the next little bit…
(original post below)

Sort of.

My friend Jessica was admitted to the hospital last night to have her sweet baby boy. I got a call at 5:30 am and headed over. She is not progressing as fast as she was hoping, so I am going to ask for your prayer for her labor. She is going naturally (like me…uummm, not really. I asked for the epidural when I hit the 7 month mark. I was willing to drag that thing around for two months if it meant no pain…..:)). Jess is a TROOPER. Here’s the quick version. They had to induce because she had developed hypertension as well as pre-eclampsia. She got into the hospital around 7 and they didn’t get a room for her for two and a half hours. She had to have her IV placed 4 times before it was successful, and then after a few more not so pleasant moments (involving faulty catheters), she got about an hour’s worth of sleep. She was wanting as little intervention as possible, and unfortunately they have had do give her pitocin and magnesium sulfate. It’s not fun stuff. She hasn’t been checked in the last few hours, but at last check she was only 4-5 cm. She has a really bad migraine right now, and it is so hard to see her hurting so much. Her contractions are only coming every 7-8 minutes now…
I am one of her birthing coaches, so I am here for the long haul tonight and I will keep you posted as there are updates. She and her husband Matthew are also posting on their blogs if you want to check in there for updates. If you are new to my blog, Jessica is the friend that kept you all updated while I was having Audrey.
Please pray for her labor, for her husband, and for me as we support her today.
More to come…
Thanks for “being here” with us…you are so appreciated.
Angie

Holy Ground

Take off your sandals, for the place
where you are standing is 
holy ground…
Exodus 3:5

The funeral home called a few days ago (7/8) to tell us that Audrey’s grave marker was in.
This week has been hard, and for some reason, this pushed me over the edge emotionally.  I don’t even know if I could say it was sadness, because I have been waiting for weeks for this call.  I wanted her to have more than the little plastic placeholder with the piece of paper in it. I was relieved that it was finally there, but it took my breath away to hear the words.  It feels so final.
Immediately, I told Todd I wanted to go over and see it.  We only have one car right now (I kind of wrecked the other one a little bit, but I contend that it was the pile of cement’s fault.  It practically jumped out and ripped off my bumper) and the twins had a friend over, so I started out the door.  Kate saw me grab my keys and she started screaming and begging to come with me.  I told her that I was going to see Audrey and then to the grocery store, and that I didn’t think she would have as much fun as if she stayed and played with all the girls.  She protested. And then she started putting on her shoes and saying over and over, “Ona go, momma.  Ona go.”  When Kate says she “wants to” go, she is pretty persistent.  I didn’t have the strength to fight her, so I told her she could come. She ran to the playroom and grabbed the back page of a princess magazine they had been reading, wiped her eyes, and said “let’s go, momma. I go wif you, just you and kate, momma.  just us, right?”
“Just you and me, Kate.  We’re going to go see Audrey.”  She climbed in her car seat, clinging on to the magazine page.  
The whole way to the cemetery, I watched her smile in the rear-view mirror.  I love taking each of my girl’s out for “alone time,” because we get to connect in a different way than when we are all together, and I think it helps them to know they are each so special to me.  Kate really needs this time, especially lately.  
We got to the cemetery and I grabbed my camera to take pictures so Todd could see Audrey’s marker.  I obliged when Kate asked to take off her shoes.  She loves the feeling of grass in her toes; she is the kind of kid who wants to “feel” everything fully.  She wants to touch the flowers (pluck mercilessly), sort my purse (turn upside-down and use up my new lipstick), and to enjoy her food (shove fistfuls of it into her mouth while closing her eyes and purring “mmm-mmm.”). She doesn’t know how to do life halfway, and I love that about her. 
She grabbed her little page and started walking around the cemetery with this big grin.  I spent some time talking to Audrey, and then asked her if she wanted to come over with me (she had discovered the joy of stealing the little flags from several vases….don’t worry, they have been returned…).  
She looked up at me, confused.
“Ona see Audrey.”
“She’s right here, honey.  They just gave her a special new plaque that tells about her.  It has her name on it.”  I ran my fingers along the letters and she took a step in my direction, then stopped.
“Ona see her, momma. Where is she? Where is Audrey?”
Tears filled my eyes as I realized what was happening.  She thought that we were going to see Audrey.  The Audrey she held, not the one who is under this marker.  The Audrey that wore a dress and looked like a baby doll.  That’s why she had been smiling the whole way here.  No wonder she wanted to come with me so badly…she probably wondered why it had taken us so long to go back to see her.  I didn’t know what to say.  She kept looking at me, clutching her little page.
“What did you bring, Kate?” I studied her face.
“A book for Audrey.  I give it to her.”  She looked at the grave and then looked at me.  
“Okay, honey.  Let’s give it to Audrey.”  I couldn’t see through the tears because in that moment, my emotions did not stretch farther than the bounds of her 2 1/2 year old brain.  I couldn’t stand it either.  We should be reading books at home with her, not sobbing together in the middle of a cemetery.  Oh Lord Jesus, come be near to us.  Hold us with Your unfailing love, we cannot sustain ourselves…
She bent down and gingerly set the page on her sister’s grave.  

 I read the words over and over in those moments…
                                                Audrey Caroline Smith
                                                       April 7, 2008
Not many words.  Not many hours.  So many, many tears.  
I cannot seem to find my way these past few days.  I have bruises on my legs from bumping into furniture that has not moved in years.  I got lost driving home the other night from a very familiar place, and didn’t even realize I was lost until I had been driving in the wrong direction for almost 15 minutes.  All day long, I forget the most simple words, the most familiar faces, the words to a song I know by heart.  Sometimes I just stand in the shower with the water scalding my skin so that I can feel something that registers. My brain just doesn’t know it’s way around the sorrow, it seems.  I know all of these things are part of the process, or so my grief books say.  I have stacks of them, piled up by my bed, nestled on shelves, stored on the coffee tables. They are to be my roadmap through this valley, and yet, in this moment, all of the words are just meaningless.  I know this is “normal,” but I assure you, it is anything but.
We figured out a way to tuck Kate’s gift into the back of Audrey’s vase so that it wouldn’t blow away.  Kate cried as we walked back to the car, because she finally realized we were not going to “see” Audrey.  I put her sandals back on her dirty feet and wiped her cheeks clean.  Then I wiped mine clean as well.  
As I drove away, I looked back at the roses and I couldn’t help but think of how much I wished she could have had a wedding bouquet herself.  
I thought about something I haven’t talked about here yet, and I want to.  Well, I want to start talking about it.  It has been so hard for me, but this blog has become a sort of therapy for me, and I think it will help me process if I can begin the conversation…
The day we buried Audrey was really hard.  It was a beautiful day, and God made Himself present in amazing ways, but humanly speaking, it was one of the worst days of my life.  Tom (Uchida Photography) gave me the photos from Audrey’s burial tonight and I have spend quite awhile lost in memories of that day. I wanted to remember the way that everything had gone, because some of it was a blur.  In my letter to Audrey, I said that we were going to take the band-aids off her bunny because she was healed.  The day of her burial, we set up the bunny by her tiny little casket and we stood together while Abby, Ellie and Kate peeled them off her heart.  I knew in that moment a great peace, a peace passed understanding, as the Bible says.  I knew she was healed.  I knew she was in the arms of the Lord, and that was enough for me.  I missed her, yes.  But I truly rejoiced knowing that she was in the arms of her Savior. Good, strong, beautiful, safe arms.  
There are a couple of things that I remember feeling that day, and one of them was a nice, steady breeze.  It was a warm day, and it felt like grace itself was winding it’s way through the tent as our Pastor spoke powerful words of truth. My hair blew all around me and it reminded me that we are not alone.  We are never alone.  There are wind chimes in the baby garden where she is buried, and there is always enough of a breeze to make them dance with music. I remember thinking that the wind was like the Holy Spirit, unseen in this moment, but moving. Ever moving.  
I remember the scriptures that my niece and nephew read in front of the crowd.  Verses they had picked out themselves for this occasion.  I was so proud that they had done that, and they chose words that ministered to me greatly. 
I also remember the feeling of absolute panic and shock when I saw her little coffin.  We requested a wooden coffin because they are so simple, and we wanted something that looked like it had been carved by human hands.  I originally wanted an Amish coffin, but our funeral home told us that they had a Jewish one that was wooden, and I thought it was beautiful.  All of the “example” pictures were of regular-sized coffins, and so were all of the displays at the funeral home.  I guess my brain didn’t fully understand that hers would be a very, very tiny version of the ones I was seeing.  When I first saw it, I gasped out loud.  It was small.  I had to remind myself that she was small too. 

There are a lot of moments I will treasure from that day, and I will share more with you as time goes by, but I really wanted to show you a few that are special to me in the hopes that you, my faithful friends, will feel like you were with us. Not just for the burial, but for the healing that God performed when He brought her to His side.  No more band-aids, sweet Audrey-blossom. Only Him.
Only Him.
We have received a few questions about the beautiful light that sits in her flowers…the truth is that we have no idea where it came from.  It doesn’t appear to be from the funeral home, but we didn’t put it there, either.  It seems it is a sweet gift from someone who has heard her story…we would love to know so that we could thank you in person for such a thoughtful gift…
Thank you for your love, and for your time.
I love to meet you here and tell you the story of a little girl who had weight in this life.  
We miss you, baby.  Every day.
daddy-mommy-ellie-abby-sarah-kate

A Beautiful Song

(written 7/7)


6 months ago today I sat in a dark room and listened to a doctor tell me I was not going to get to keep her.
3 months ago today I held her. 
3 months ago today I had to give her back.
This weekend, I got to share a little life with Sara (yes…Sara from Texas:)) and her family. When I say “family,” I mean that they came in two cars and one of them was a 15 passenger van. It was more of a blessing than I know how to say.  It is amazing how God can bring beauty from ashes…and He did.  I feel like they have been friends forever, and we were really sad to see them go.  We laughed when we went to the grocery store and the checkout guy assumed that we were sisters.  Truth be told, we are.
6 months ago today, I didn’t know that I would sit with a “stranger” in my pajamas and talk about what it feels like to mourn a child.  Although there were many tears, we also had a lot of fun together. You would think that two women who met in such a horrific time would not describe their time together as joyous, but it really was. Anyone who has lost a child (or anyone who has lost someone close to them, I’m sure) will tell you that unexpectedly, normal life sneaks in sometimes.  You don’t know how to handle those moments, because you are so broken, but the laughter feels like a respite from the storm. It was so good to be in the presence of someone who understands that balance, and knows what is on your heart even before you say it. We all sat together and watched my neighbor’s fireworks while the sound of our kids playing filled the air.  It was bittersweet.  I was so grateful to have met her, and so sad that it had to be like this.  
On Saturday night, Sara and I went to the cemetery to be with Audrey.  We cried as we sat there, alternately raking our hands through the dirt and wiping tears.  I didn’t say anything to her at the time, and I’m not really sure it even hit me until later that night, but I noticed that Audrey’s grave was one of the only ones that didn’t have flowers in the little vase.  I realized that it must be kind of an “unspoken rule” that you bring flowers on a holiday.  I was telling Todd about it last night and I couldn’t stop crying because I felt like I hadn’t taken care of her. I realized in that moment that I still want to parent her, even in death.  It is a hard thing to feel like a mommy when you can’t even hold your child.  Every time I go there, I have to fight the urge to dig into the ground, and wrap her up in a blanket.  I just want to rock her and whisper to her and feel her little cheeks against mine. There are times I think if I could just hold her one more time, I wouldn’t hurt the way I do.  I know it isn’t true, but I don’t want her to be there tonight.  I have all these crazy thoughts, worrying about if she’s cold or if she’s afraid when it gets dark.  I know she isn’t really there, but I am her mommy.  I want her to have flowers.
Today, I went back to her with Todd’s family.  As soon as we left my house to head over there, it started pouring rain.  It didn’t stop until we were pulling in to the cemetery.  I knew it would, because it has happened this way each time I have gone.  It rains from the moment I leave my house to the moment I get there, even though it is less than a 10 minute drive.  It is one of the ways that God has chosen to remind me that He is with me, and I will never forget that He did that for me.  Our neighborhood sits across the street from a Catholic church, and it seems like every time I walk out my front door, the church bells are ringing.  For the first dozen or so times, I thought I must be walking out right on the hour, but then I started checking the time.  I can find no discernible pattern to it, other than the fact that He wants me to know He is with me.  
He is a Father, after all.
I bought her a beautiful bouquet of pink flowers.  Nicol said they reminded her of my wedding bouquet, which I hadn’t noticed until that moment.  We sang and talked and sat with her. Todd told her that Ellie had lost another tooth while I pulled the weeds that have started to grow in the dirt.  My hands went right to them, angry that enough time had passed for weeds to have crept in. Furious that the weeds would dare try to come to this pure place, and yet, they find their way.  I didn’t stop until it was clear.
I am her mother, you know.  
I have spent a lot of time crying in the last few days, and I would love to ask for your prayers.  I know that this season (and many more to come) will have peaks and valleys.  It’s just that when you are in the valley, you feel like you won’t ever come out.  I think one of Satan’s greatest schemes is making us feel hopeless because we don’t have the strength to climb again. He doesn’t want us to believe that God is our rescuer, that He can carry us. He wants us to feel like God doesn’t see us, doesn’t know how weak we are.  He wants us to believe that our Father has left us, cold and without comfort.  No flowers, no blanket, no parent.  Just the night sky and the sound of silence.  I know it isn’t true, but I want to say it because I’m sure there are others who feel this way, and I want you to know that I understand.  
I also want to tell you that I appreciate you all being with me, and with Sara, Nicol, and the other women who walk this road.  I hesitated to post tonight because I can’t stop crying and I feel like my thoughts are jumbled.  The Lord reminded me of something that happened last week, and I want to share it with you so that you will know my heart a little better.
We went to the home of John Catchings, the greatest cello player I have ever had the honor of listening to.  He has performed on all of Selah’s records, and he played at our wedding, so I feel connected to him.  He is gifted beyond measure, and I want to thank him here for what he did for our family.  You will get to hear it whenever I have permission to share, but just know that it is beautiful.  I sat with headphones on and listened while his hands danced to the sound of Audrey’s music.  I sobbed the whole time because it was so gorgeous.  Here’s the weird thing. He kept stopping in the middle and telling the producer to start the track over so he could try again.  For the life of me, I could not figure out what he was hearing.  It was perfect to me.  He knows music much better than I do, and he certainly knows what he is capable of doing, but to my ear, it was flawless.  On the way home, I was remembering the way he played, and God spoke to me.  It didn’t fully make sense to me until a few days later, but I want to share it with you because it is important for each of us to know as we make music with our lives (and we all do). The Lord whispered,
It is My song. I am just asking you to keep your hands steady on the bow.  
Many, many times I feel like I am a garbled mess as I write.  I post something and I think that it will never make sense to anyone.  I want so desperately to make her story beautiful, and I feel like I am always wanting to yell, “Stop! let me try to do that better…” while I write.  
Reading your comments and your letters, I have often wondered, “What have they heard?”  It didn’t feel that way with my hands on the bow (or, the keyboard as it were…).  Now I am starting to understand.  
I am grateful tonight for a God who cares enough for His people to use us in spite of ourselves, to bring others to His name.  I am an imperfect vessel with little more than a piece of sheet music (which I cannot read) and an instrument I do not know how to play.  And yet the Lord says to me over and over……keep your hands steady on the bow, and I will make it a beautiful song…

Thank you Lord.  Thank you for allowing me to even be a part of her life…
One of my favorite books is “The Valley of Vision.” It is a book of Puritan Prayers, and it is one of the most amazing prayer books I have ever read.  In one of the entries on “weakness,” this is written:
Help me to walk the separated life with 
firm and brave step
and to wrestle successfully against weakness;
Teach me to laud, adore, and magnify thee
with the music of heaven,
and make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude to thee…

(excerpt from pg 189)

To Sara, Bradon, Sydney and the gang…we are humbled that you would take the time to come and be with us.  We just like you all so much!!! We are blessed beyond measure to have you to walk with as we travel.  Thank you for your openness, your transparency, and your love. Thank you for your sweet spirits, and for your desire to have relationship deeply.  Sara, we are kindred spirits, and as I go to bed tonight, I will be thanking Him for your friendship.  
Angie

A Few Answers

***updated 7/3*** Just want to let you know that the author of the Jesus Storybook Bible posted on MY blog!!!! It’s true!!!! Read for yourselves!!!! Her name is Sally Lloyd Jones and now I am going to have to stop stalking her because she knows I exist…Can you BELIEVE it??????  Also, a few of you asked if I was open to adoption…the answer is ABSOLUTELY!!!!! Thanks for asking! 
Hello friends! I hope you are well.  I have been wanting to write this post forever, and I just found a window of time and finally sat down with some of my “most frequently asked questions.”  Kate is taking a nap and the girls are playing with our sweet neighbor-friend, so I will see how far I get….***update*** She woke up after about 15 minutes…it is now almost 11 p.m. the next day and I am just now sitting down to finish this!
Because these are so frequently asked, I am not going to type out each question, because I am pretty sure you will know what it was when you read the answer.
Also, I am feeling a little “virtual-link” happy today.  I just think it’s fun that I finally figured it out, so feel free to just travel wherever you want to. Okay, here we go!
·      The song that plays when you click onto the blog is by David Crowder, and it was released (best I can tell) on an early CD that is no longer available.  I have no idea why, and Todd and I actually stood in a long line to try and talk to him about it at the Dove Awards (the week after Audrey was born), and when I got about 2 people away, I started sweating profusely and decided I was too nervous to talk to him, so we ducked out of line. I know, I’m a total dufus. It’s just that I love his music and I was, well, a little emotional.  I am still kicking myself, and if I get the chance, I will tell him how much his music has meant to me, and I will be sure to wear a stronger deodorant.
·      I read the NIV version.  I am kind of a Bible junkie, so I own one in just about every version, but NIV is my favorite.
·      I am Protestant…I am a member of Grace Community Church, and our Pastor Scott Patty is amazing. He’s the kind of Pastor who makes you believe in the power of the Gospel with his words and his life.  He is also the kind of Pastor that calls your house several times a week when you are in crisis and makes you feel like you are the only person in his congregation.  We are SO blessed to have found our Church home…we have attended Grace for about 3 years.
·      Between 100,000 and 150,000 people/hits (to use my cool new blogger lingo…here’s another one I recently learned…”delurk.” I like that.) per week. And yes, I think it’s crazy :)
·      I’m not sure if we are going to have more children…we will see what God says when the time comes.  Currently, I am not allowed to get pregnant because of my c-section…I will have to wait until next Fall to be healed enough to try.  If God gives me a peace about that being His will, then absolutely, yes, we would love another (or another 10! Whatever!)
·      I weigh 100 pounds.  OK, nobody asked that and it isn’t even true, but it’s my blog and I’m really skinny on it.
·      My favorite Bible teachers are Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer.  If I met either one of them, I would probably pee on myself.  That was not the holiest way I could have phrased that… but I’m pretty sure they will both have special chairs very near to Jesus in heaven.  One time, Todd had an event with Beth (I didn’t meet her face to face…did you read the part about David Crowder????). I just flat-out think she’s amazing.  My favorite Bible Studies of hers are probably Breaking Free and The Patriarchs. Todd also did an event with Priscilla (I’m not on a first name basis with either one of these ladies, but again, it’s my blog).  He called me and said, “Ang, someone wants to talk to you” and handed her the phone.  She told me who it was and I giggled and tried (unsuccessfully) to form sentences in my native language. Last week her brother Anthony Evans (he is a singer and knows Todd from music stuff) asked us to come out and ride his horses with him (umm, yeah, I’m serious.  I have pictures to prove it). It was a blast and I did my best to play it cool about the whole “you’re related to Priscilla thing.”  In case you don’t know his dad is Tony Evans, the preacher.  That poor family needs to figure out how to serve the Lord with their gifts a little better…:)
·      My favorite song (today) is Tears of the Saints by Leeland.  If I could figure out how to post it legally here, I would.  It is amazing.  My other favorite is “Your Name” by Anthony Evans.  Ellie asked me to roll the windows down at a stoplight the other day because she thought the guy next to us needed “to hear about Jesus.”  I agreed.  There is at least a small chance I saw him on “America’s Most Wanted” at some point.  You know the vibe…
·      I love Beth Moore.  I think I already said that.  It’s worth repeating. Did I tell you about the special chair? I’m sure it’s in the Bible.
·      My favorite Book in the Bible (today) is James. 
·      The plaque that was on my mantle in the “Crosspoint Video” was sent to me by a woman named Kaye.  Her website is www.engravedeuniques.com.  She was a complete stranger who took the time to send us several pieces of her tile art, which we treasure (and she isn’t really a stranger anymore!) 
·      Sawyer is doing great! You won’t believe how big he has gotten….here’s a recent photo. Isn’t he gorgeous? He is such a sweet pup.

·      I stay close to God by spending time in His Word.  It looks small on paper, I know, but that’s the only way you can consistently walk with Him.  When I’m not reading my Bible faithfully (yes, it happens!!!), I feel like the distance creeps up.  It’s not boring!!! I promise!!! I hope to keep encouraging you to find this out for yourselves…
TTThose are Abby’s feet in the “jumping in the rain” picture on the sidebar.  The photo is a few years old.  Here are a few more from that day so you can see how much they have grown…

·      I do want to share more photos of Audrey! I am waiting on the photographer to get them to me (he is moving his studio and I know it’s crazy for him).  I am excited to post them as soon as I can! Hopefully it will be soon.
·      Yes, I would love to sell your purses (and other items) on E-bay and give the money to charity! I am so excited that people want to do this…I need to figure out how it all works…any ideas?
·      I do read all of my email, even if I don’t respond.  I am a few (hundred…yikes…) behind right now, but I love reading them.  I just don’t want to rush through, so I have to find pockets of time to really be present with whoever has written.  Please don’t stop writing! I love hearing from you, just trying to balance my time right now. 
·      “I Will Carry You” will be released on a Selah CD next Spring. 
·      I have a little area of my house devoted to Beth Moore.  Okay, that’s a lie too, but if it wasn’t idol worship, I probably would.  At least a little candle or something? framed pictures? A life-sized cardboard cutout? Such a delicate balance between admiration and a restraining order…
·      The name of the children’s Bible that I love is “The Jesus Storybook Bible.”
Phew.  OK, what am I missing? 
I will leave you with a verse that God has brought to me many times in the last few days, and it has brought me great peace.  I hope it does the same for you.
“The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17
May your home be blessed tonight with the sound of His sweet singing, and may He quiet you with His great, unfailing love…
Angie