Boxes

The only thing I remember about house-hunting as an 11-year-old is that I might get a bedroom with rainbow pillows.

We were mostly looking at new homes, so they were all perfectly decorated and impeccably neat, which I also liked.

And even now as I look back I can feel my stomach doing flip-flops because the smell of freshly opened boxes means that life is going to change again. It means new friends and new enemies. It means something new outside my bedroom window. It means I won’t know the bus driver and I probably won’t fit in. Years have passed and many boxes opened and closed, but they still make me weepy.

Truth be told, I don’t really like new adventures. I like old, worn, sit on the same spot of the couch with someone you love kind of things. Because even though new is good sometimes, it’s still, well, newer.

As a sidebar I just got a flashback from my first day at a new school in Conneticut. I was in kindergarten and at lunchtime a teacher came out to the cafeteria and announced, “Miss Sandy is here with her sweet treats, kids!!! Come on in!!!”

Well hot DOG. I had a feeling I was going to dig this place. I ran to the back of the sweet treat train and braced myself for goodness.

I watched the kids go through the line and noticed that they only picked up one item each, so I followed suit. I kept trying to catch a glimpse of this Miss Sandy lady because she was single-handedly changing my kindergarten experience and I wanted to tell her I was happy to meet her.

As we got to the end of the line I noticed that the kids were handing something over to a woman who did not look a)sweet b)conscious or c)like the Miss Sandy of my five minute-long daydream.

And as the girl in front of me handed over her wad of cash, it dawned on me.

We had to pay. With real money. Which I didn’t have.

And because I like to be subtle (have you noticed?), I threw my muffin across the divider, turned and ran back to my table while several dozen children giggled and called me names that involved violence and pastries.

My mother gave me a crisp dollar bill the next day for sweet treat time, and I got an ice cream sandwich. It was divine, but it wasn’t any different than the one at the grocery store. It even came in the same wrapper. To this day I don’t know why they made it such a big deal, but it was an unfortunate kick-off to a school year. Later that same year I threw up in front of my entire class. For the record, it had nothing to do with the lunch selection.

Great.

Now I’m really having a hard time focusing because I can smell fresh boxes, ice cream sandwiches, and the smell of barf on velour. This is obviously going nowhere good.

Anyway, I’m not a fan of moving.

So today was a bit of a difficult day. And I really thought I had prepared myself, but I was wrong. I knew it as soon as I walked into the almost-empty house and felt my eyes get hot.

It wasn’t just anyone’s house, but my Audra’s.

And it’s empty because on Monday they are moving to Colorado Springs.

And it’s exciting and wonderful and all of those great things because I know God is faithful and they feel called to go there, but for me it just plain stinks. For those of you who are new to my blog, Audra has been my best friend since I met her in Buffalo almost 16 years ago. We have lived so, so, so much life together and it’s ridiculously hard to think about her not being in the same city as me.

And those stupid boxes did me in today.

It wasn’t the first time I had seen her with boxes. Once, it was because she was packing up to get away from a bad boyfriend. Another time we packed because she was coming to Nashville a year after me to start graduate school with me. There were boxes when she came to live with us, boxes when she got married, and so many others in between.

How do you measure the love of friends who have shared this many boxes?

I don’t know, or else I would have said it when I was stammering for words, crying as I pulled away from her house and watched her little girls run to her. I watched them being born and now I had to watch them carry piles of clothes up the long ramp into the moving truck.

Ugh.

I need to drown myself in sweet treats now.

Please pray for Audra, her family, and for what God has in store for them…and if you are in Colorado Springs and want to meet an amazing girl, I know of some boxes you can help unload.

A

Mr. Lewis

I am writing tonight with a heavy heart, asking you to pray for Audra. So many of you who have read my blog for awhile know that she has been my best friend for almost 14 years.

Audra’s dad passed away early this morning (around 3 a.m.). He had been ill for quite some time but still his same spunky self and none of us expected it to be so sudden.

Please pray for Audra’s mother, her sister, and all of the extended family as they walk through this season.

He was an amazing man and lived a great life, and he will be so missed.

Thank you, friends.
Angie

A Few Things…

I am so glad you loved those photos as much as I did!!! I have had several people comment about what a precious idea it was to have the pitcher with the cherry blossoms and the bunny, and I wanted to make sure I told you that I had nothing to do with it!!! Tammi was the creative bug and I just stood in about 2 feet of grass while mosquitos bit me to pieces.  Several people asked if Abby had already broken her arm and the answer is yes! Once again, creativity at its finest :) She didn’t have the neon green cast yet, it was just in a sling-thingy but seriously! You can’t tell at all!! I’m going to pay her thousands if she can do the same with my baby weight…

I wanted to give you all another update and ask for some prayer for next week. You might remember that we had put our house on the market last year and finally sold it. We found another one we loved and really felt like it was where we were supposed to be. Unfortunately, the floods happened and the people who were buying ours couldn’t because the people buying theirs lost their home (Did that make sense? I’m not getting much sleep).  We were so devastated for the family (and so many families) that lost their (s) it just wasn’t a big deal about ours. We were safe and sound and apparently moving wasn’t in God’s plan for us.

And then, a few days later, our buyers accepted another offer on their home, but the one we were going to buy had already sold. We had a few days and a wonky market to try and make a big decision. Todd and I were committed to putting ourselves in a position where we could be better stewards of our money and there just wasn’t much out there.

So, we had a little heart to heart and we decided to just blow off the whole “God leading us” thing in favor of a rustic mansion on a 100 acre farm in the Tennessee hills.

Not really.

God surprised us with a beautiful home in a safe, wonderful neighborhood with lots of trees and children. It is cozy and peaceful and we can’t wait to call it ours. It turns out that several others felt that way as well, and despite the fact that we didn’t even put in the highest offer (there were several…and at least one that was well above ours), we got it!!! Because we had no contingencies, they took it in place of the others.  Not everyone has the opportunity to do what we are doing, and we are extremely grateful to be able to be debt free as a result of our downsizing. Other than our mortgage, we are free and clear!!! YIPPEE!!!!

Until I talk hubbs into buying me that Range Rover I’ve had my eye on…uh, NOPE.

All that to say, we are praising God for His faithfulness to us. We are blessed to be able to make some adjustments in our lifestyle and share what we are given. It isn’t anywhere near what others are doing in order to serve the Lord better and I don’t want you to think I am saying it’s this huge sacrifice…it’s honestly not. We are together, we are healthy, and we will have a lovely place to be together and share life. How amazing is that? We are moving next week and as excited as we are, it’s still stressful to pack up a house and four children…we appreciate prayers for all to go smoothly and especially for the girls to adjust well. We will be farther from my mom and dad and their friends and they are struggling with all the change that’s been happening.

I am praying that the Lord will continue to draw us near to Him and burden us for those who have so much less than we do. Audra just got back from Africa and we have talked for hours about what she saw there and how it impacted her (I’m so incredibly proud to call her my friend…). I want to write about it in more detail but we have had great conversations about simplifying life. I actually want to pick your brains about how to do this in a society like ours, so stay tuned for a post where you can contribute.

Also, could you pray for my friend Adrienne? I have mentioned her here before…she has three beautiful adopted children and is now pregnant with her fourth. She has been having complications and is now on hospital bedrest. Her baby boy seems to have stopped growing and although she is only 26 weeks, they are trying to decide if it would be better for him to be delivered. There is a lot that seems up in the air and I just can’t imagine dealing with all of that while having your three young children at home. She and her husband are wonderful and I know they would appreciate your kind words and especially your prayers on their behalf.

Finally, I want to leave you with an image I think will move you.

It may move you to tears.

And ladies, I do hope what I am about to show will not cause you to stumble in your walk.

Deep breath…

Wait for it…

I don’t really know what else to say.

You all have a great night…that is, if you can shake the image of the gold chain.

And also, baby? Bill Cosby called.

He’s gonna need that sweater back.

~Ang

The Only One

Today was a good day, but it was hard too. There were a number of things that were weighing on my mind, not the least of which was the fact that today was the day we received Audrey’s diagnosis two years ago. I spent the day with Audra at a spa (a birthday treat from her hubby…complete with a LIMO!!! Shawn, you rocked it!!!) That was amazing, and we had an awesome time. I know the Lord allowed it to happen today so I would have something to distract me.

On the way home it was snowing and I was driving really slow and reflecting on the past few years. There are situations in my life that I have prayed about over and over and I feel like the Lord is just telling me to be still. It has been a long, difficult season for many reasons and today the frustration just spilled over and reminded me that my hope is in the Lord, and that only He can love me perfectly. 

Be still, Angie. I am in control. I see you and I know you…

I would love to ask for your prayer today. My spirit is heavy with the weight of life and although I am rejoicing, it’s just been a hard day emotionally. I wanted to re-post something that I spoke about at a retreat several months ago…it was published on the (in)courage website in November as well as on several twitter links, so if you have already read it, I apologize. I just wanted to share it with you because I know it’s a message I need to remind myself of today…I pray it blesses you and encourages you to chase after the Lord as one who knows what true gratitude looks like…

The Only One

I’ve felt called to spend some time studying gratitude in an effort to work on my own negative tendencies and the Lord recently gave me an amazing glimpse into Scripture.

In Luke Chapter 17, Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem when He hears ten men with leprosy calling out to Him in desperation. Most likely, they didn’t expect a response, but they were used to announcing their ailment whenever anyone walked by.

Jesus did respond, and He instructed them to show themselves to the priests. It says that as they walked, they were cleansed.

The Greek word for cleansed in this passage is “katharizo,” and it means “to cleanse by curing.”

After they are healed, one of them recognizes that he is not leprous anymore (the Greek for healed in this passage is “iaomai” which means to be cured) and goes back to thank Jesus.

So all of them are not leprous anymore but only one has returned to thank the Lord.

Upon falling at Christ’s feet, Jesus tells him to “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19)

I was intrigued by the fact that while the rest of the Greek words refer to healing of a sickness, only the leper who returns is told that he has been made well.

So what is the difference?

Actually, quite a bit.

The original meaning of the word “well” in this passage is “sozo,” and it means more than a physical healing.

It means that in the Biblical sense, the man was saved.

It seems gratitude is an intimate part of our salvation. This doesn’t mean that our salvation is earned by it, but it does challenge us to think about how we are living out that gift every day.

I want to encourage all of us to fall at His feet in gratitude, if for no other reason than that we are “sozo.” Loved from before the beginning of time.

Let’s be like the leper who returns in shameless gratitude, spilling out our thanks as we lay at His feet.

After all, He has made us well.

I want to be the one in ten.

Do you?
 

11/25/09 (in)courage

***If you don’t frequently visit the (in)courage site, I highly recommend it…LOVE these ladies!!!


Audra’s Birthday (January 4th!)

Today is Audra’s Birthday, and I wanted to celebrate her here with you all. As most of you know by now, she was Audrey’s namesake, and we are going into our 13th year of being “BFF’S” (hence the eyebrow issues in some of the earlier photos in the slideshow…)
A little about our friendship. When we met, we were in Buffalo New York (although we had both started college at 2 different schools a few minutes away from each other in Ohio:)).  She was actually my T.A. at Buffalo State even though we were the same year, and the first conversation I recall having with her involved the type of pants she was considering wearing on a date that night. I think we decided on velour? Please, remember the 90′s with me…at that time it was a good, solid choice. He, as I recall, turned out to be a loser. But the pants were, well, rockin’. I think they had stirrups too. Bonus.
Neither one of us were Christians, and we didn’t live our lives like we should have. We were both dating abusive men, and we were searching for ourselves by going out a lot and pretending our real lives didn’t exist. We were immediately soul sisters…we had no idea at that time what God had in store for us.  It is amazing to see where we are now (long story shortened here…).
The year after I was accepted to Vanderbilt University, Audra was also accepted, and moved to Nashville. We were so grateful to be in the same city again, and we sailed through Graduate School (seriously, if you ask either one of us what we remember from that time, we would probably say shopping. I have no idea how we each got our Master’s Degrees, but we did look really cute doing it.)
I decided to start going to Mass at some point in the year before Audra moved here, and felt that the Lord was calling me to Him. When she moved here, she felt the same way, and began attending First Baptist Nashville (without going into too many details about our “prior lives,” this was pretty much a miracle.  She invited me to join in a Bible Study with her (remember the Precious Moments Bible…yes, that was this study…).  I honestly loved it, and I loved all of the women who were a part of it. I am still close to many of them, and I remember that as the time when I began to feel really pursued by the Lord.
One night, on the way to church, I said to Audra, “I just don’t understand this whole ‘getting saved’ thing. I mean, I’ve told God that I love Him and that I want relationship with Him, but I don’t feel like I’ve gotten the sign that means I’ve been accepted or whatever.”
She walked me through it all, and later that night (on January 17th, 2001) I sat in my car, sobbing, and I invited the Lord to be a part of my life.  
She and I have walked through everything from infertility, miscarriage, horrible break-ups, devastating life circumstances, arguments, car accidents, driving mishaps (which led to us literally ending up in the wrong STATE and laughing so hard I almost peed on myself), and everything in between. We have watched each other’s babies be born, and been each other’s maids of honor. I have heard it said that “Friendship is the giving and taking of hurts…” and that has certainly been true for us. 
When I found out that I was going to be in the hospital with the twins for a few months, Audra would come and spend the night with me while Todd was on the road. She brought me books, crossword puzzles and Christmas CD’s, and  would come on her work breaks to share lunch with me.  She would rub my swollen feet and talk to the nurses for me when I didn’t have the strength. She would pray with me, cry with me, laugh with me, and dream with me of the day that all of this would be over.
And then, when we found out about Audrey, she was in her car on the way to my house before I could finish telling her what was wrong. We sobbed as we sat on the couch and for the rest of the pregnancy, she was everything I could have ever asked for. She knew what I was thinking before I said it, and she let me be me. I needed her so much, and she NEVER LET GO.
She was there for the birth of Sarah Kate, and we all bawled our eyes out when she came out so tiny and precious. She was such a sweet baby….I miss those days of rocking and bouncy seats sometimes….OK, a lot of time.
During this time, Audra met Shawn, and they got married. He is AMAZING, and I couldn’t have picked a better husband for her. They have a gorgeous daughter named Amelia (2), and will be expecting their next little girl in a week or so (she is as of yet unnamed, so pray for wisdom!!!) Audra’s blog is listed on my sidebar, so make sure and check out pics of sweet baby Amelia. She is absolutely gorgeous, and there is no mistaking that she looks like her handsome daddy:)
Years later, she would meet her namesake Audrey Caroline. She would study her body, smooth her hair, kiss her as she cried tears of deep longing. She would stand up at Audrey’s memorial and read a letter I wrote to my daughter as tears streamed down her face. She would stand at Audrey’s memorial service with Shawn’s arms around her as if she herself had lost a child. She conceived a baby quickly after that, and her due date is actually somewhere between the 8th and the 11th. 
I’m secretly hoping the baby is born on the 7th so I will have a reason to celebrate on that day when now all I have is a reason to mourn.
I could go on and on, but basically, what I am saying is that I cannot imagine my life without your friendship and love, Audra. I am eternally grateful that God gave us to each other, and that something as simple as velour would lead to a pair of women who spend their lives falling more and more in love with our great Savior. 
How could we have known, so many winters ago, what He would allow us to walk through together?
It has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
Here’s to 70 more…
A+
p.s. Feel free to wish Audra a Happy Birthday in the comments!!!! She’ll get a kick out of that:) And remember as you watch, we met in the 90′s!!!!!! so go easy on the clothing…:)

p.p.s. I have spent about 6 hours trying to make this slideshow look right, it’s much better if you click on “view in highest quality” on the right hand side of the screen on the bottom.

(remember to pause blog music…and if you’re curious, the song that plays with the slideshow is “Never Let Go,” also by the David Crowder Band:) )