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Audrey’s Story

(originally posted in 2008)

First of all, thank you for being here. If you are here that means that you may want to become a part of the story that God is weaving us into, and we welcome that. I decided to start this blog because we are humbled and overwhelmed by the number of you who have contacted us, wishing us well, praying for us, bringing offerings on our behalf during this season. What we are realizing, though, is that we are not able to keep everyone informed the way that we would like to. We are simply too tired and too sad to tell it over and over. This seemed like the best way to involve many of you who we love and need right now, and to update you as far as what is going on and how you can be in prayer for us.

So, let’s start at the very beginning. I’m Angie. So nice to meet you…I am looking forward to our sharing during this time, even if I don’t know your face right now. I am married to Todd…amazing, God-given breath of life, Todd. You may know his voice from Selah, but I hope you will learn his heart here. We have been married 6 1/2 years, and have three incredible daughters…identical twins Abby and Ellie (5) and the spunkster that is Sarah-Kate (2). We have learned recently that our fourth daughter, Audrey Caroline, will not officially join our family the way we thought she would. This is the darkest time of our lives, no question. BUT, there is unspeakable joy in knowing how God will use this for His glory. We beg you to engage yourself in the latter more so than the former, as this is where we are resting now.

In a way, the story of Audrey’s sickness began with a bunny. While shopping for my best friend Audra (the baby is named after her and also my middle name, Carole), I came across a bunny that for some reason, I just fell in love with. I told Todd that it reminded me of Audrey and I wanted to buy it for her…he did not fall in love with the price tag the way I fell in love with the bunny, so we moved on to another store. Later that night, as I rocked Kate to sleep, I began to weep. We had no indication that there was a problem with the baby, but my intuition had been busy since conception. As I rocked, I saw the face of that silly bunny and I could not stop the tears (for those of you just meeting me, crying over stuffed animals falls into the “unusual” category…). I told Todd about the incident and he decided maybe we should go back….we didn’t get the chance for a few days.

On Monday, January 7th, I went in for a 20 week ultrasound. My mother in law was in town (she felt for some reason that she should stay for my appointment, and cancelled her scheduled flight a few days prior). When the ultrasound began, the air in the room shifted. I was asked the kind of questions that no mother ever wants to hear from a stranger. After she looked for a few minutes, she said, “I am very concerned about this baby. I need to get the doctor and the geneticist in here and they will talk to you.”

I began to feel dizzy..I asked her if I could hug her (this, on the other hand, falls into the “not unusual” category). I climbed down off the table and sat by Todd, laying my head in his lap and whispering, “Is this happening?” just before the doctor came in. There was no time for an answer. He was a very sweet, God-sent man who made the next few moments as bearable as one human could. He told me that as he did the ultrasound, he would be mumbling to his geneticist, and that I should take no note of this. At the end, they would tell me what was going on. This was a moot point, as everyone in the room knew that the mumbling was just a quiet way of whispering death. It so happened that the mumbling (to add to the “scene from a movie” quality of the moment) was in French. He is a world renowned researcher who developed the measuring system for fetuses while in the womb. And I don’t speak French. I barely speak Spanish after three years of high school classes, unless I am inquiring either 1) your name or 2) where the bathroom is.

It didn’t matter…we all knew what he was saying.

When he finished, he turned to me as a father might to his daughter and (I will never forget this) put his hand gently on my knee, as if to acknowledge that I was fragile, and that his intention was not to break me.

“Your child, she has many conditions. Her kidneys are poly cystic and her heart is much too large. Each of these is a lethal condition. There is no amniotic fluid, her lungs are not developing…..you will have some choices to make and……..” The rest is a blur, which lasted all of five minutes and most of eternity. Todd went to get his mother in the waiting room, and the kind Belgian man asked me what I was thinking. I don’t know where these words came from (actually I do), and I said, “I think that my Jesus is the same as He was before I walked into this room.” He stared at me, not comprehending, but possibly relieved that whatever these silly notions were in my mind, at least they were keeping me calm until he could get out of harm’s way. As my mother in law came in, I kept repeating, “He’s no different, it’s okay, He’s no different…” We just sat and gathered ourselves for a moment. I wiped off the jelly from my skin and looked at the now empty picture being broadcast on the wall. It felt like a dream, like a long, confusing dream.

The geneticist came in and guided us to her office. She was so kind, so gentle. She herself had lost 4 babies. One she carried to term with full knowledge of her impending death, and at least one other she chose to release from the womb. She recommended the latter in my case and I think she gave a lot of good reasons why that would make sense. I just nodded and focused on breathing. That was enough. We hugged her and walked out of the office and back into the hustling, bustling world that was still somehow moving all around me. I kept it together until I talked to Audra. We have been the best of friends for about a dozen years. I cannot tell you the life we have celebrated together, and the time that we have mourned for each other, rejoiced for each other, prayed for each other. And yet the sound that was coming out of my mouth was unrecognizable to both of us. She heard about three words before she jumped in her car and started over to my house.

I checked into Centennial Women’s Hospital that evening. I spent about 10 weeks there with my twins, so it feels like my stomping ground. There is one particular doctor, who, humanly speaking, saved Abby and Ellie’s lives. He travels quite a bit, and is much in demand, so he is very rarely in the hospital. This just so happened to be his week of hospital rotation (hmm…just so happened…), and he would see me in the morning for a confirmation of the diagnosis I had received. Against any explanation I could give, 5 1/2 years after I knew him, he still remembered me. He told my OB that he remembered my red hair and my smile. This is interesting to me, because I don’t ever remember smiling during that time. I am glad to know he remembers this. He requested that his technician not do the ultrasound until he was in the room, so she patiently waited (for about 2 hours) while he did some emergency surgeries in the hospital. I cried when he walked in. It just brought me right back, and yet under circumstances unfathomably worse.

“I kind of hoped I would never see you again, Angie,” he said with the sweetness of a man who spends his days watching mommies lose their babies.

“Likewise, Dr. Fortunato. But I am so glad it’s you.” My heart knew that he would find the same things we already knew, but it felt safer, more manageable. He spent much more time looking at Audrey than the other doctors, and they let us watch her move around as they spoke. My doctor arrived during this time, and we began discussing options. Dr. Trabue, my O.B., used to perform abortions many years ago. He has dedicated his many, many latter years to a God that has forgiven him, but left him with battle scars. We had no question where he stood. Taking her now would be taking a life. It was not gray. They stayed with us for about an hour and a half, which is remarkable, because when I was there in 2002, we nicknamed Dr. Fortunato “the bullet” because he was so quick to speak and then run out the door. During those weeks, we formed an unlikely bond, and he would share his research with me and with Todd. He talked to me like a person and not like a patient, and I am forever grateful for that. After the girls were born safe and sound against the odds, he told me he believed that my God had performed a miracle. I agree, and if and when you meet them, you will as well.

I told him that I had another daughter…he looked up, so surprised.

“Any complications?” he asked.

I had to get a one liner in there somewhere…

“Not until she was born” I replied. We laughed a sweet laughter that defied the moment. When you meet Kate, you will laugh with us. She is life personified. Such a busy little joy.

After all the words were said, we got our things together and left the hospital.

“We’re going to get the bunny” Todd said with absolute resolution, maybe more so than at any moment thus far.

We got to Anthropologie, the home of the bunny, and walked frantically over to the toy rack. More than a week had passed, and without speaking, we both wondered if she would still be there. Todd found one first, and showed it to me.

“I think it’s the last one.”

Right as he spoke, I saw two little ears sticking out of a toy barrel and I reached for them. As I lifted it out, breath escaped my body quickly, without permission.

She had a black, permanent mark on her heart. This was the bunny God had given us.

We cried and walked to the register (what an odd sight, I’m sure). The saleslady tried to scratch off the mark and Todd told her that we were quite certain it would remain there. She told him there was one other one and we explained that this was the one we wanted. We went to eat lunch and we talked about life. The new form of life.

We decided that she would stay with us until the Lord takes her. We don’t know the hour or the way, but I guess that isn’t any different for the rest of us. We also decided that we want to LIVE in the coming weeks. We are taking her to Disney World at the end of the month so the girls can show her Cinderella’s Castle. We have so many plans for such a short time.

There is more, much more, but I am sure you are tired and I am also tired.

We covet your prayers that this life will do things for God that we cannot imagine. One day I will tell the full story of the Blog Title, but for now, I will leave you with these words, and my most sincere thanks for listening. You are now a part of what God has chosen, and I rejoice over that.

“Bring me joy, bring me peace

Bring the chance to be free

Bring me anything that brings your glory

And I know there’ll be days

When this life brings me pain

But if that’s what it takes to praise You

Jesus, bring the rain”

Mercy Me, “Bring the Rain”

Love, gratitude, and hope.

Angie

Audrey, pregnancy

Our sweet Audrey girl

Here is the girl behind the prayers!!! This is several weeks 
old, but such a great shot of our little bunny.  
We wanted you to meet her:)
I am sorry it has taken me this long to post.  I have spent a better part of the past two days trying to figure out the best way to write this.  We had a really hard appointment on Wednesday (I noticed that my blog said Wednesday the last time I posted, but it was actually after midnight Tuesday night, and my appt. was the next day).  We met with Angie, who was incredibly knowledgeable and great at her job.  It turned out to be a day filled with information that is really difficult to digest and I am not sure that I have really gotten to a point where I know how to ask for prayer.

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

Books

Seamless

seamless
Angie covers the people, places, and promises of the Bible as she focuses on the seamless thread that weaves them all together from beginning to end.
Buy at Lifeway

For Such a Time as This

for-such-time
Angie illuminates 40 stories of prominent women of the Bible for girls aged 6-10 and their parents with vivid storytelling and historical accuracy.
Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes & Noble

Chasing God

chasing-god
Angie shares her faith questions along with her constant searching for God, fearing that she would never know Him. Three words changed everything: stop chasing God.

Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes & Noble

Audrey Bunny

audrey-bunny
Angie shares a sweet tale about a stuffed animal who fears imperfections make her unworthy of love. Young readers will learn that everyone is special and wonderfully made by God.
Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes & Noble

Mended

mended
Angie presses into the beautiful concept that there is no one that God can’t use and no one whose brokenness is too broken for God.
Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes & Noble

I Will Carry You

I-will-carry
Angie weaves the powerful story of losing her child with the Biblical story of Lazarus to help those who mourn find grace and peace in the sacred dance of grief and joy.
Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes & Noble

What Women Fear

what-women-fear
Angie blends her own experiences of doubt and anxiety with stories from Scripture of men and women who simultaneously loved God and struggled with fear.
Buy at Amazon Buy at Barnes & Noble

Audrey, Audrey Bunny, B&H Publishing

The Mark

I can’t tell you what an honor it is to be able to share this with you all, and I’m in tears (again) just mentioning it.

Evidently that’s normal for someone who is introducing her first children’s book, written in honor of the sweet daughter she lost several years ago.

It’s actually been really hard to for me to talk about it (which is why you may not even know I was working on a children’s book) because it was such a holy, healing experience. The Lord was so kind to me while I stumbled over my words and prayed for the end result and the message that would be conveyed to readers.

Yesterday was the official release day and I am already completely overwhelmed by the response to it. To me it is a representation of the way her legacy continues, and to be able to hear the way others are reading it to their own children over and over again has blessed me more than I could have imagined.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, or even if you are someone who vaguely knows her story, you’ll see a lot of “hidden” things within the book that refer to Audrey. I won’t give them all away, but I did want to tell you about my very favorite one.

It’s the one that means the most to me, and I’ve hardly been able to even talk about it before now…thank you to sweet Breezy Brookshire for supporting and loving me while we prayed through delicate decisions, and for Dan Lynch at B&H Publishing who always allowed me to have the final say, even when it made things harder for him. B&H has a strong history with me of always allowing me to have significant voice in any project, but this one was even moreso because of the sensitive subject matter. Dan, I appreciate you trusting me and allowing me to tell what was ultimately a story she could never tell for herself.

Ironically, I’m at Disney World now and the book released yesterday while I was here. So many memories and sadness associated with her here, and then to have the book in people’s hands while I am wishing she was in mine. It’s a lot to process and I know I’m doing it rather poorly here.

I hope you hear my heart, though. And I hope you know how I will forevermore be grateful for those of you who chose to be a part of her story. Please know that you have been my confidence on shaky nights and the love that propelled me to believe there would be a better day.

Yesterday we were near the carousel and our nanny Nicole saw a little girl who was lost from her family. I went up to her and introduced myself, shaking her sweet hand and asking if I could pick her up. She nodded, and tears filled her eyes as they frantically searched for a familiar face.

I told her I wasn’t going to leave her until we found her parents, and she described them very well considering she was a young child-even down to the color of stripes on her mother’s shirt. We found a man working in the park and he began to assist us, but it was clear that I was Madeline’s safety-net, her promise-giver, and her loving protector, so they requested I stay with her until her parents were found.

We galloped and she giggled.

I told her she didn’t have to be scared and I told her how remarkable her bright red curly hair was. She smiled. She wasn’t very nervous anymore because she trusted me,and we made a game of it while the men in uniforms paged one to another in search of her mom or dad.

At least 10-15minutes passed, and the man closest to me said he believed they had found them. We saw another man come around the corner and she wiggled out of my arms and ran to him, squeezing him with a huge smile on her face. She looked back at me and continued smiling.

It was at this point I realized she was almost exactly the age Audrey would have been, and I felt my throat tighten as I patted her back.

“She’s beautiful,” I told them “And really smart as well,” They agreed and thanked me. With that, she was gone. Back to where she belonged and yet I had, for a moment, felt so motherly with her that it had a twinge of sorrow.

The Lord is so kind to me in these moments, and I never miss the chance to remind me of truth.

We are lost here.

We aren’t home yet.

And we have people who love us and take care of us and steward the gift of watching over us, but they are not our ultimate home.

I believe that my Audrey has been returned to her home, and that I will see her there again.

It hurts so desperately sometimes that I don’t see how it could ever stop. But on some days I walk in the promise with a little lighter step, choosing to believe that the temporary will be swallowed and the eternal will give her to me forever.

It wasn’t an accident, what happened to my Audrey.

Who is to say exactly what or why, and I dare not suggest I know.

But I do know this.

His sovereign hand was the last she passed through, and He allowed her a few hours before He brought her to Himself. It wasn’t a mistake, a punishment, or a misunderstanding.

I am clear on the facts.

But oh…..how I miss her little red (maybe curly?) hair, and how I wanted to tell that little girl I loved being with her but I knew there was a better place.

At the end of the day, it can only come to this.

Either He is good, or He is not.

And I will say this with no sense of questioning or doubt. He is good.

He formed her and I love her just the way He chose to weave her together. I miss her, but my love for my Lord is uncompromised, and I see His hand on all the marks that the rest of the world sees as accidental at best, as punishment at worst. I see the hands of a loving Father, touching that which we may not comprehend until eternity, all the while whispering, “It is for good, love…”

That is why this particular “secret” of the Audrey Bunny book is so, so special to me.

I hope it will be to you as well.

Please watch the video and hear how it came to be…

 

 

And revere the One who wove her and spun her exactly as she was, and continues to love her in our absence.

With love,

Angie