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Audrey

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

Audrey, Audrey Bunny, writing

*5* & a beautiful gift.

I glanced down at my phone and saw a text from my editor (and dear friend) Jennifer Lyell. It said “Listen to your voicemail:)”

I’m terrible with voicemail. And she knows me well enough to know that if she doesn’t explicitly tell me to, I will likely never hear her messages.

So I listened.

And I cried.

It’s a minute and 58 seconds, and it’s one of the most beautiful messages I have ever received. I will save it to play over and over in the moments when I’m tempted to believe what the enemy whispers to me.

She is forgotten.

Audrey would have been 5 years old today. She would have been blowing out candles and running around the house and giving me the privilege of having one more load of laundry. She would have been getting ready for summer to start, excited to try and swim independently and celebrate the sunshine with her friends.

She would have been laughing, I just know it.

She isn’t forgotten, I know that because I carry her with me every moment of every day, and I will continue to. As the leaves changed this year I wondered if her tree would bloom as it has every other, and indeed it did. Just before Easter, reminding me again that it is only in the resurrection that I find the strength to wait for the flowers to dance again on barren branches.

They don’t stay long. Just a few weeks at most, and often not even that.

It’s still, in the grand scheme of things, a young tree.

It has years to go before it’s strong enough to bear more. I will remember that instead of mourning the fleeting glance, and I will believe it a gift that He knows how much beauty I can stand each year and He gives me grace in proportion.

He has, in so many ways, reminded me of the tender way He involves Himself in the details. One particular story has blessed me tremendously, and I wanted to take today to share it in honor of Audrey.

I have known for awhile that one day I would write a children’s book about her in some form, but it wasn’t until last year that I put my pen to paper. There were so many different ways I wanted to do it, so many stories I wanted to share. I struggled through the emotion of trying to convey the profound juxtaposition of sadness and God’s perfect love, not just for the book, but for myself.

And finally the words were written and the art began. The illustrator was tremendous in her gifting and a delight to work with, but as the first few pages came in I felt a tug in my heart.

My friend Kelsey had been over and we were looking at illustrations online when a friend of hers mentioned a young girl she had come across on Etsy. Kelsey clicked on the link and both of us stared at the screen, while page after page of her work confirmed what I was hesitant to say out loud.

She’s the one.

It made no sense from any angle. She was barely 20, didn’t do custom work, and had never illustrated a children’s book. And since we already had a contract with another illustrator, it was a moot point. I knew the book would turn out beautifully, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this girl and I would connect. Her name is Breezy Brookshire, and I am so happy to tell you a little more of how this is unfolding.

I’m in the process of writing a children’s Bible storybook for girls as well, and I mentioned Breezy to them in the hopes of talking to her about illustrating it. I explained to my precious B&H team that I wanted a previously unpublished, teenaged girl to do the entire Bible. As you can imagine, it sounded like a foolproof plan. :)

We had coffee one afternoon and I scrolled through her art, watching their faces do exactly what mine had. They told me they would reach out to her immediately and see if she would be willing to discuss the storybook Bible.

She told me later that when she received the message from Dan Lynch at B&H, she checked the website to see if I was writing a children’s book because she was hoping it might be me. As God would have it, she knew of my blog and had read about Audrey. She and her family had prayed for me during that time, and were familiar with her story.

In any case, she wrote back to both of us and said she would love to talk more about it. I was third in line checking out at Hobby Lobby with Kelsey when I got the message. Not that I remember it that well.

Believe it or not (shocking, right?!?) she and her family had plans to come very near to Nashville in the following weeks and we decided to get together and see where things went. Before our “business meeting” with the B&H team, I invited the family for coffee and to my house because I wanted them to have a chance to express any concerns they might have and also just to get to know us a little. This was a young girl, a big project, and a lot of unknowns. I wanted to reassure them that the team at B&H was amazing and that I would do everything I could to support her in the process.

Sufficed to say, we fell in love with them. The Brookshire’s are one of the kindest, most pure-hearted and gracious families I have ever met, and we were delighted to be in their company. All kindred spirits, eyes on the work the Lord was encouraging us to partner in, humbly accepting the grace that would allow such a beautiful friendship.

At one point I stood up to get something in the kitchen and while standing at the sink, I turned to Breezy at the table and all of a sudden my eyes just filled up with tears. I don’t know how to explain the connection that happens sometimes between people, but the Lord just fosters a knowledge of someone in a way that defies the fact that you’re essentially strangers.

And although I had felt it before, I had a deep conviction in that moment about Audrey’s story, and I told them through tears that I felt like she was supposed to illustrate it.

We prayed about everything, we cried, we giggled, we just loved each other. It was wonderful. They felt like home. While we chatted, Breezy’s amazing sister Emily Rose was playing with Kate in a nearby room, and I could hear them telling stories and connecting. It was a beautiful puzzle; the lot of us put together for a greater purpose.

{That’s Emily Rose on the left and Breezy on the right in the top photo}

We had our business meeting the following day and it went exceptionally well; naturally all parties involved were excited and the focus was on the Bible storybook. After saying goodbye (yes, we were all crying. It may have been the air in the restaurant, I don’t know.) I walked into another shop in downtown Franklin and sat down on a bench to try and catch my breath. We hadn’t talked about Audrey’s book because it was out of the question, but I asked about it in a later conversation with B&H.

They explained that it would basically take an act of God for that work out, but that they would pray.

They did. I did.

And He honored our prayer with a series of events so bizarre and inexplicable that I am tempted to say it is the most convinced I have ever been that God enters into even the small things on our behalf. Every single detail of what looked impossible was taken care of, every person overjoyed at the outcome.

In the end, Breezy signed an official contract as the illustrator of Audrey’s story on January 7th, which was the five year mark of the ultrasound that told us she wouldn’t survive.

And as the sketches for each page came in, my heart would pound as I studied the face of the girl in the story. Her name is Caroline, and she has bright red hair.

She’s about 5, I’d say.

And it was clear to me in those moments that the Lord had orchestrated all of it, and that by His grace He let me see this little girl dance and run and play dress-up with her bunny Audrey.

And she has life.

She has so much life…

I don’t know why He wrote the story this way. There’s no question it isn’t the way I would have. I hasten to say that every one of you reading this can think of something in your own life that feels the same. An area where you’re tempted to listen to the enemy as well, wondering if it’s been forgotten entirely.

I can tell you with assurance that He cares, and I can point you to the verses that declare that truth. But more than that, I pray you’ll experience it for yourself.

A tree was planted in my yard in honor of a little girl who never got to run in it.

I could spend the rest of my life imagining her bare feet in the grass, but in the end it wouldn’t change a thing.

So, instead, I wait.

I wait for the blossoms to come, and when they do, in whatever form they are given, I treasure them as long as I can. I praise the God who brings life, and in so doing, I praise the God who takes it

I believe He mourns with me while I wait, but I also believe He rejoices in ways I can’t yet. He sees it as it will be, when all is made right, and it’s beautiful.

It’s easy to cry when the flowers fall, because to our eye the beauty has passed.

My prayer for myself today and for all of you is that you will hear the still-strong voice of the Lord comforting you as He reminds you that you can only see a bit of the page.

The roots are strong, love.

There is life deeper than you’ll ever know here.

Savor the fragrance and revel in the brightness when it comes, and grieve it when it goes. It’s the nature of our flesh to do so.

But also, remember you too are a very young tree.

And there are many things ahead that you couldn’t begin to manage beholding, not even in your wildest daydreams.

They’re better than bare feet in grass, and better even than candles on a cake.They’re the pages that are yet to come, and this is a chapter that declares you believe it is so.

I believe it is so.

Jennifer’s message said that she had just received the final pages for Audrey’s book, and she was overcome by emotion. She cried as she told me how much her life pointed to the Lord, and I listened to her heart break with mine.

It’s beautiful, she said, her voice breaking.

I can’t help but agree.

It is a spectacular work of art, and I want to give my public and heartfelt gratitude for Breezy.

Breezy-you showed me  life in her I didn’t think I would ever get to see, and I’m forever indebted to you for all the tenderness you approached this project with. You are one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received, and your love for her makes me weak with gratitude. May the Lord be blessed through the spectacular work of your hands, and may you always carry with you my unending esteem for your work ethic, your breath-taking ability, and more than that, your passionate love of our Father God. And may His name be lifted because of your offering-now and forever.  I love you more than I know how to say and I recognize it is only He who could weave this together. All praises to the One who cares intimately about our circumstance.

Sweet Audrey- I pray our Lord is glorified through this book, and that you know how very much we miss and love you. Every day we are closer to where you are, and we will rejoice to see you again.

I’ve cried today, sweet girl, because I wanted to have you with me and the emptiness breaks my heart. Most of my days that’s enough to get me through, but sometimes I can’t stop the tears. It’s okay. It’s just the way it is, I guess.

I wish you were here, love.

Any yet, our Father has given is so many gifts, so many promises, and so many reasons to remain steadfast as we wait.

We do the best we can, love.

So until then…

Happy Birthday, Audrey Girl.

We love you more than we can ever say with words.

*It won’t release for several more months but I wanted to include the image of the front cover so you could see it. Can’t wait to share the rest. Isn’t she beautiful?*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audrey, Everyday life, Faith, Family

The Audacity of Hope

I realize I do not do these near enough, so I wanted to take a second to let you all know how the Smith’s are doing! First off, if you don’t follow me on instagram (I’m angelac519…i don’t know how to hyperlink that since its on my phone, but I bet you can find me!) you are missing lots of really fun photos like this one of Charlotte.

I know, right?!?!?! She is so delicious. And a total talker. She says things like, “Ina bine beh” (I want brown bear) and “I gonna getchu!” while running around the house in her nudie-tudies. She also sings a multitude of songs (think Adele, not Barney) and insists on wearing shoes All. The. Time. She also says, “Tank U Maaaach” for thank you, and her newest phrase has something to do with greeting a sea bass but we haven’t figured out the details just yet.

In other family related news, we got a call a few weeks ago to see if Todd would like to be a part of an Easter service at Sea World, and we talked it over but really wanted to be together so he talked with the radio station and asked if he could bring his family. We have wanted to go back to Disneyworld since we were pregnant with Audrey but just haven’t been able to. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you will understand why we knew God was giving us a gift with this new trip. The radio station agreed to the adventure and long story short, we are all going back to Disney. And you’ll never, never guess what day we are flying out?

Or maybe you would :)

April 7th. On what would have been Audrey’s fourth Birthday here with us.

I cried. Hard. And as grateful as I am, it is very bittersweet. The last time we went we still had her with us, so I have so many memories tucked away about the way I hoped that she would survive. For me, the trip happened at a time when I didn’t know the way it would turn out, and it breaks my heart to remember the hidden prayers that followed me to bed.

Last night Todd and I were watching the Duggars and Michelle was talking about her pregnancy and how she was so happy and wanting to get past a milestone (because her daughter Josie had been born prematurely before that). I started crying as I watched it because I know what she didn’t at that point. The sweet daughter she was carrying would not survive. I watched as my eyes grew hot and red because she had such hope. And I can’t help but see myself in her face, praying that our earthly desires will come to fruition…praying to the God Who knows what will and what will not.

When I think about Disney, I can’t help but imagine that the Lord was watching us as we hoped, and knowing we would be devastated soon. That’s a difficult thought, and I wonder if you have ever been there. It would be easy to allow the world to tell us that it wasn’t worth the risk. Why bother to hope at all?

May I dare to answer that for your heart {and mine} today?

In my life, hope has led me to pray. It has led me to believe Him. To have the boldness to say that I trust Him above the hurt. It has given me a reason to lift my head, to stake my claim, and to dismiss the shadows that whisper, “it will not be redeemed.” We do not know the ways of the Lord, of course. I’ve heard it said a thousand times and I agree. But there is more to say, isn’t there?

We might not know His ways, but we can know Him. 

My life didn’t get tied up in a neat bow when we had this crooked-ponytailed miracle you see above. And it didn’t answer the questions or silence the hurt.

What it did give me was a reminder of the power of hope. Not just in tomorrow. Not just in this life, actually.

But the hope that demands a response in the way we live our lives.

She is with Him.

She is with Him.

So while my feet reach one in front of the other, for all the years to come, I will remain steadfast in this:

I have hope because I have Him.

Disney will be great. I’m sure we’ll get sick on loads of ice-cream and lack of sleep. But there is no amount of adventure that can compare to the time I have ahead of me. I need that reminder a lot, and maybe you do as well.

This isn’t it, friends. Do you believe that more than the curve ball life is throwing you right now? I hope you do.

And hope?

Is a beautiful thing.

Eyes on Him, friends. Eyes only on Him…

Here’s to the audacity of hope.

Angie

p.s. We have been told that the song “I Will Carry You” has ministered to the Duggars as they have walked through the loss of their sweet Jubilee. I believe it will be featured on their season finale this month. It is an incredible honor to be able to share in their loss this way. Audrey still testifies to the power of hope, doesn’t she?

Audrey, Faith, Jessica Turner, Matthew Paul Turner

He Loves You

I wanted to be there, no question.In fact I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Three years ago I was a few months on the other side of losing my Audrey and it was time. Time to head to the hospital.Time to watch life start again.Time to rejoice for others while allowing my heart to mend in the process.

I found the room where he would be born, and little did I know that this room held a beautiful reminder of a promise.

I am always good, love.

Hours, agony, and exhaustion gave way to the moment we had all been preparing ourselves for. It’s time.

Oh. It’s time.

The doctors reached, the momma cried out, and I felt my fingers tighten on my shirt as I watched him being born.

A baby. Just a sweet little 8 pound reason to keep believing that God was still on the throne.When just weeks ago I had stood in a cemetary and said goodbye to the red hair and the tomorrows that yesterday swallowed up.

I wanted to be there, no question.  In fact I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

It’s been three years, almost. And my eyes start to burn and my jaw wants to tighten because it means that time keeps moving on without her…and why? Why does it insist on doing so?

But here I am again. The same hospital. The same momma that says “Happy Birthday” when her babe is born and loves and loves because she doesn’t know any other way. I came to support her, and to see what it looks like when hope comes bursting through the seams of life.

It won’t be long now. Her body is saying it and the doctors are agreeing. She is ready to start life all over again, and as her face flushes and her heart pounds, she screams out just as the doctor pulls her new daughter from her.

And there, on a bright morning in Nashville, I watched them lay the sweet, waxy, pink baby on her chest and there was no more screaming and no more fear or pain. It was all gone away, and in its place was this child. This promise that everything that hurts that way will be redeemed, and it feels possible here.

The baby doesn’t scream at all, and what might be nerves give way to the recognition that it seems to be her newborn nature to simply be still. The doctors smile and laugh and bundle and then Jess holds her perfect Adeline for the first time. All eyes are wet with love and relief, and I do a good job of celebrating. It’s so easy to celebrate when you’re with people you love and rejoice easily over. And the room reminds me that it doesn’t always go the way it has gone.

Sometimes the babies get to go home with their lullabye-singing mommas and their head-over-heels smitten daddies.

Sometimes, often really, they get to watch her sleep in her cradle and have whispered conversations about whose nose she got and why her hair makes those sweet little circle shapes and oh, how they want to devour her.

I know it happens, because it has happened to me.

What right do we have to a love like this? A love that says “yes,” before it knows anything other than “mine.”

And yet, I also know the other.

And as the nurses left and the baby rested and all lights were dimmed and peaceful, I wanted to hold her just for a moment. Not long enough to remind me of everything but long enough to feel Him.

I needed to feel Him.

She was, I thought, about this size. But no, of course she wasn’t. She wasn’t anything like this, and she never would be.

But who am I; this tender-hearted witness to the love that came down?

Not just here, and not just in life.But also in death.

We have no say in the matter, really.

We love as deeply as we are carved, and when the day is done we rise to see another.

I didn’t get to see the life I wanted with her.

I brush my face against Adeline’s and a part of me wants to whisper, “Do you know?”

Of course she doesn’t.But one day I pray she will.

That she will know me as the one who found the right hospital room despite all of the wrong turns I could have made between Audrey and her.

That she will know that I will love her the way I love her brother and that she will always remind me of the day love made sorrow stand still and rest in the truth.

But oh, how I miss her.

My tiny, pink-flesh and damp-haired baby girl. I never got to see your eyes, but I will. And I will know every part of who you are and what mattered more than everything I could see.

Because I have a God in whom I trust, in spite of the two very different rooms.One that rejoices, and the other that mourns.

How could this God be so?

Are you wondering why? Why would a good God let this baby have this and that baby have that?

I am here, friend.

And instead of asking why, might I offer a simple solution that I believe will answer the true question. I’m not sure it ever was “why” in the first place, but maybe “Who.”

He is my most intimate friend, my most respected Father. He is the One who carries the sun to it’s place and remains as faithful as rain falling down, down, down

Into the place where you thought nobody would remember.

He does.

Not only that but He loves you. He loves you. HE LOVES YOU.

I lost her. I cannot see her again in this life, but I am not tormented as I was because of those three words that tell me I have nothing to fear.

He loves me, loves me, loves me. Over and over and upside down and in every way I can’t get my arms around.

And this new little love shows me breath and smile and tears. I have lights of my own, this house full of blessings.

I have enough to know that what I don’t know is safe.

One day I will meet He who says it is so. I don’t know that I will ask the questions I think I will. What’s the point of why when you have the Who?

I might just bow down, down, down…And before the King I will whisper with the stillness of heaven’s peace-if I can stammer the words. Sweet, sweet girl…how I have wanted to hold you again.

I wanted to be there, no question.

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.


*To read Adeline’s entire birth story and see pictures of her, please click here*