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

*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?*

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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*

Blossom

When we decided to move, it was a given that the house contract would have to include a few provisions.

In particular, there were two trees that we would take with us.

We waited until fall to move them because we were told that was the best chance of a successful re-planting.

And up until a few days ago, we held our breath, sneaking a peek out the windows every so often.

Wondering if it would bloom in its new home.

So imagine our joy when we saw this…

Today would have been Audrey’s third birthday, and we are celebrating her as we continue to watch her bloom in the unlikeliest places. We love you, precious girl.

~Angie

The Cartwheel

Last Sunday night we went to a dinner party to pray Audra off to Uganda (she leaves on Friday with the AMAZING organization Sweet Sleep). Todd and I were inside talking to her about the trip while all the kids at the party played outside in the yard. For some reason I kept saying I felt like I needed to go out there and I just had this kind of unsettled feeling about being inside. Well, a few minutes later we heard this ear-piercing scream and someone came in and told us one of our kids was hurt pretty badly. I remember that everyone looked white-faced as I ran down the steps and several people were saying that one of the girls had broken her arm.

By the time I caught up with them, they were in the front of the house and Audra’s husband Shawn was carrying Abby. She was crying and begging me to save her, and when I got a good look at her arm I knew why. Oh my WORD. There was a wonderful man at the party who is going on the mission trip and it turns out he runs Vanderbilt Children’s O.R., so he called and let them know we were on our way.

The car ride over to the hospital was one of the hardest times in my parenting life to date. Sweet Abby kept asking me to pray for her and sing hymns to her and Ellie was completely beside herself in the backseat. She was more upset than Abby was, and at one point she asked hysterically if she could die so Abby could live. Awful. Awful. We kept explaining that this happens all the time and that we were going to get her fixed right up, but unfortunately, their experiences haven’t always ended up that way.  All the while I am looking at Abby’s arm and trying my best to act like everything was fine and the truth was I was just trying not to pass out.

The weirdest thing is that she was literally DOING A CARTWHEEL when she broke it. There were all these people around and they said she landed on her feet and then stood right up and looked at her arm. She could tell it wasn’t right so she ran to Uncle Shawn and asked what was wrong with it. I think it hit her then what had happened and she screamed. I just felt so helpless.

Vandy was AMAZING. Every single person we came into contact with was fantastic and they made a pretty scary experience as calm and easy as it possibly could have been. Randomly, one of her doctors went to the same high school as me in Cincinnati and we were there at the same time but we hadn’t known each other. I just felt the presence of the Lord there and we all made it through, but it has cracked open a tender spot in me that I am struggling with.

I am a worrier by nature, and the first to admit that my thoughts can run away from me if I don’t get a handle on them. I believe the enemy preys on me in this way, and has for most of my life. I know I’m not the only one who can get caught up in all the horrible things that could happen to my family. I also know that the Lord I have given them to does not want me to fear the way I do.

I love these girls (all of them) so much, and in the most profound, tender way. Each of their spirits have such deeply carved sweetness and goodness that I find myself trying to protect them in ways I know I can’t.

I can’t shake the images I have of that moment when I knew one of them was hurt but didn’t know what had happened. What a mother feels when her child is in danger is a powerful, awful thing. And it doesn’t  help when the worst thing that could happen actually has happened to you. I don’t want to live my life in this place of worry, but like I said, I am struggling.

This past week I took Charlotte to Children’s hospital for a scheduled ultrasound so they could make sure she didn’t have any fluid in her kidneys (she had some there when I was pregnant and they expected it would  remedy itself). Unfortunately, the fluid was still there. The technician did not seem at all alarmed, and completely put me at ease about what she was seeing so I don’t believe there is anything we need to be worried about.

I left the hospital clinging to her and looking back and forth at least three times before I crossed a completely empty road. I checked her buckles repeatedly and drove under the speed limit. I talked to the Lord about my fears and He gently urged me to remember that her life was not determined by any of my precautions, and that while I need to be a mindful parent, any sense of complete control is a sham.

When we were taking Abby to the hospital, she reminded me of what the Lord calls us to do. She sat with me, full of fear, and she spoke to Jesus. She asked Him to heal her and to be with her. She told Him she was afraid and that she needed Him. I sat with my arms around her, wiping down her sweaty head and kissing her little cheeks and it occurred to me that this really should be my ultimate goal in parenting. I need to love them well enough, true enough, and deep enough that they will let me hold them while they call out to Him. What a beautiful image; we as mothers get to be the holders while our children commune with the great One.

I’m sustained by that truth right now.

I have been a terrible blogger and I apologize…my arms have been busy and my heart has been a little restless. I know I’m not the only one to feel this, so as I write these words I am praying for all of the mommies out there who have had to face the moment where they can’t “fix” things. I’m praying for all the mothers who have heard a doctor tell them that they won’t get to hold their little ones again. I am asking the Lord to reach down to all of us as parents and remind us that we are the arms of Christ with our babies. May we never take that for granted, and may we never forget the Father Who loves us enough to let us weep with Him.

I wish I could just invite you all over for some coffee and hug on you. I know from the status of my inbox that many of you are hurting and processing your losses today, and I just wanted you to know that you aren’t alone.

After a few hours in the E.R., the doctors re-set Abby’s arm, and judging by the pictures, it’s almost as good as new. It has actually been a joy to be able to help her do things she would normally insist on doing alone, and last night I was giving her a bath while we talked about how she was feeling. She had her little sling up on the side of the tub and she made a comment about how it stunk that she was hurt but that she was remembering that she didn’t have to do things all by herself. It struck me that I do the same. Woundedness brings a desire for communion with the Lord if we allow Him into that place, and I am grateful for that.

As I wrapped her up in her towel, I could hear Charlotte cooing from her bouncy seat in the other room.

I looked Abby square in the eye and told her I wanted her to make me a promise.

“What?” she asked.

“When you get your cast off, honey, I don’t want you to be afraid of doing cartwheels.” I looked her square in the eye, my hand on her arm. “What happened here doesn’t always happen, and if you let it make you scared…”

I listened to Charlotte for another moment.

“Well, baby, you might just miss out on a great cartwheel.”

She smiled and gave me a one-armed hug.

I can’t wait to see her do it.

Marked By Love

***Link is working now! Sorry about that…GO ENTER TO WIN!!!***

A few weeks ago I alluded to something I was really excited about and today I get to share it with you all:)

After I lost Audrey, I got so many emails from people who had either lost a child or had a friend who had and they were looking for something special to honor the child. I found a few pieces that I thought were really beautiful but when I was working on the book and making suggestions about these kinds of things, I immediately thought of Lisa Leonard. I have talked about her several times here and the fact that my computer pretty much crashes whenever I do one of her giveaways tells me that you all love her work as much as I do. I am honored beyond words to introduce you to her newest necklace, called “Marked By Love: Audrey’s necklace.”

Isn’t it beautiful? I have several of her necklaces but this one is much heavier. When she created it she remembered the comment I have made several times about Audrey having weight in this world. She also told me that when you wear it, it warms because of the way it’s made and I found the same. I periodically just lift it away from my skin and feel the heat, a sweet reminder of her life.

All of us who have lost a child are aware that we have been marked by love. Only Lisa could put her heart and soul into such a project and create a piece of art that is a beautiful, tangible way to remember our children. I have attached two of her little pearl/beads to mine-they originally came on her “By Grace Alone” necklace and they make this little tinkling noise when I move around. I use it as a reminder to pray, and the Lord uses it at the best times. I just hear it and immediately I think, “by grace alone, by grace alone…” With this one, I think about Audrey and remind myself to pray for others who have walked the same road.

She has generously agreed to give away 2 of these beauties, customized with whatever you would like on the back. Please make your way over to her blog and enter to win one…

Thank you, Lisa. I am so blessed to have this opportunity and I am praying that many, many people treasure it as much as I do…

Love to all {and go enter!}
Ang

I agree. This is cryptic.

Well thank you to all of my precious blog-land friends who check in on me when I disappear…I just had to stop in and let you know that while I am not in a position to go into great detail, my time has been very occupied lately. I am hoping that at some point in the near future when things have settled down a bit, I will get back on a more regular writing schedule.
And the book.
They have decided to bump up the release date by about three months, which means I believe the release date will now be in April. No worries-I don’t have to turn it in sooner, but it shifts things a bit. I do want to just take a brief moment to let you all know that there have very rarely been times in my life when from dawn until dusk, I feel in the very presence of what the Lord has called me to do. I would love to ask you to continue to pray for me as well as my editor Jennifer, who has become a dear friend and kindred sprit. I feel so protected by the Lord, and awoke this morning for the providence of a God Who revels in being known in the details. His mercies are always new…what a treasure to all of us.
On another note, we have received many, many requests for the Selah CD, and if you are one of the people that has already written me, you will be receiving the CD as a gift from us (and when I say us, you must know that we are just the hands and feet, so please know there are no thanks needed). Could you please send your address if you are one of those people? We have budgeted as much as we are able at this time (I do wish we could get a bit more discount on the CD’s so we could send a million!!!!), but if you are still interested and just don’t have the means right now, please write anyway and I will keep your name on a list, having faith that the Lord will provide a way for us to get those to you. We wholeheartedly believe that what Todd does is a ministry, and are grateful to be able to share with you all…in addition to the CD, know that I have appreciated reading every single email and being able to hear your stories. It is a time of difficulty for many people, and I feel honored that you feel safe enough with me to share where you are. We need to be a family, and I consider you one :)
So, this is the post written in 5 minutes, and I know it’s all over the place, but I really would love your prayers. Without going into too much detail, we have a situation at our house that we are honored to be a part of, and the Lord has asked me to be focused on it and unplug a little. There is a family involved, and they need your prayers. So, I know this sounds vague, but would you pray for what we are walking, with the full knowledge that the Lord knows where to direct your prayers? Thank you, friends.
And in the meantime, there are two sites that I have discovered through you all, and I would love to share them here because I have just fallen in love with both. If you want to add a little beauty and a lot of Jesus to your reading life, click HERE and HERE. Absolutely incredible women with hearts that seek the Lord in powerful, creative, inspiring ways.
I will be back soon…I guess you could say I have been hibernating in prayer:) If you have prayer requests, please leave them here. The beauty of the commenting system is that others can respond directly to you and you will be able to develop community with others who are where you are.
OK, again, this is all over the place and I apologize :) Thanks for being who you are and allowing me a place to come and sit with you for a while. I will check in a bit later and see if there are any prayer requests from you all…
MUCH love.
Angie

It Was Love…



**Updated with link to the Children’s Bible…***
As you can all imagine, the last week or so has been a tangled mess of emotions, and with the combination of an incredible Good Friday message and a beautiful Easter, I feel more peace than I have in awhile.
The Lord spoke to me the other night as I was reading the girls the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. I talk about this Children’s Bible often because I really think it has impacted them.  They recall the most beautiful stories in scripture effortlessly, and when I read it I understand why.  In fact, part of the way through my reading, I literally stopped mid-sentence and had to compose myself because the words were breathtaking.  Here is an excerpt from the Bible…
They nailed Jesus to the cross.

“Father, forgive them, ” Jesus gasped. “They don’t understand what they are doing.”

“You say you have come to rescue us!” people shouted. “But you can’t even rescue yourself!”

But they were wrong. Jesus could have rescued himself.  A legion of angels would have flown to his side-if he’d called.

“If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!” they said.

And of course they were right.  Jesus could have just climbed down.  Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop.  Like when he healed the little girl.  And stilled the storm.  And fed 5000 people.

But Jesus stayed.

You see, they didn’t understand. It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there.

It was love.


For some reason, I hadn’t quite thought it through in those terms, and I was rendered speechless by the infinite power that was denied for the sake of love.
It is, for me, one of the simplest and most powerful ways to present the Gospel, even stretching into our lives today.
“Angie, why do you choose to be crucified with Christ? You have the choice to abandon it all…just walk away and say that this whole thing is too hard.  You need a break. You aren’t strong enough to feel the scabs forming over and the taste of blood in your mouth…”

Suddenly it was very clear to me that it has never been the nails that held me here.
It has been love.
Deep, desperate, longing love for the One Who was mocked on my behalf. And worse yet, I have been that voice at times in my life. 
And this year, I realized that since the day I first heard His name, I had two choices.
Be crucified with Him, or climb down.
I have felt the sting of death deeply, for the first time in my life, and there was never the option to walk away. Not because I couldn’t, but rather, because I was blessed in the most unexpected way to invite the nails that held me to Him. 
“Sweet child. The nails are not enough to hold you here. You can only live the life I am calling you to through the love I have given you. The love which now has taken up residence in your very being, and makes the wounds bearable…”

He beckons us to nestle deep into the brokenness and find inexplicable comfort. He woos us to touch His bleeding side so we will know that we are not alone. 
I can tell you that I have done this, and I have been rescued from a pit so deep I could not fathom a way out of it. You may be down there right now, begging for mercy and for relief.  I understand, and I hurt for you, but this year, I have learned about a part of myself I didn’t know existed, and as crazy as it sounds, I want you to think about it and see if it makes any sense to you.
We who are followers of the King must daily wake up and look in the mirror, seeing our reflection with a crown of thorns balanced on our heads. We must feel the burden of the cross at different points in our life, and with the power of Christ Himself, we will look solemnly back at ourselves and say, “I am choosing to bear the crown because I cannot live without the love…”

That’s easy to say, isn’t it?  Will you trust me enough to try it? Tell Him, the One who knows your deepest fears and most secret desperation, that you are choosing the thorns. Everyday.
And one day, not so far from now, I believe we will be made complete, and pain will cease completely.
Oh, Lord, come quickly.
But until then, make your life an offering, and allow the hands of the Father to carry You through what you think is impossible.
I assure you that through it, He will show You His boundless, freeing love, which allows us the strength to make it another day.
And another day.
And then, one glorious day, He will call for us.
I can’t prove it to you, but I know it deep, deep within myself.
The stone has been moved.
He is Risen.
And I love Him, even in the excruciating pain I feel. Honestly, if you are trying to pursue relationship out of forced conviction, you will miss out on the glory of falling in love with the Maker of your soul. There is such a difference between religion and relationship. I could not have survived without the latter, I assure you.
Because, you see, the thing about the nails in this life is that they are temporary. We choose to bear them because we know that we will lay our crowns at His feet in the blink of an eye. We will join Him for eternity, and will worship the One Who was scarred on our behalf.
I am praying for each of you as you arise tomorrow morning. I am praying that you will see the crown of thorns as a promise. Yes, it is painful, and yes, sometimes we struggle under the weight of it, but no, it will not defeat us. 
And that is a promise I needed to remember as I celebrated what would have been Audrey’s First Birthday.  It isn’t something superhuman or overly spiritual, just the daily remembrance of a life lived out off the depths of love.
We praise Your name, Lord. For You are Who You say You are.
And that is enough.













4.7.09

***update*** I am overwhelmed by the response to this post, and the number of children whose lives are about to change because of your generosity. I received all of the emails you all sent, but many do not include specifics about the child sponsored (name, ID number, project location, etc). Apparently when you forward the email that Compassion sends you, it only allows the reader access to the main site and not to the specific child.  Could those of you who sponsored send me all possible information about your child? I am trying to figure out if I will be meeting any of them in person, in which case I would love to give them their gift in person :)  And please pray- I have been told that we are only allowed to mail “flat things,” but I am optimistic that the Lord will find a way around that :) I just need to figure out where all the kiddos are. 
Thank you so, so much.
(original post follows)
It hurts just to write the title.
 Honestly it does.
It’s one of many milestones that you have marked with me.  For some reason, when people have asked me how I feel about this day coming up,  I always tell them that I think January 7th will always be the one that I struggle with the most, because we found out that we weren’t going to get to keep her.  April 7th? 
In some strange way, that was more the day she lived than the day she died
That probably doesn’t make sense to you unless you have been in a similar situation, but to us, that was the day the Lord blessed us with 2 1/2 hours we didn’t expect. We didn’t take them for granted, and they are etched in my mind like an old movie that replays at the most unlikely moments. Bits and pieces come to me, float to me, live with me, remind me.
The other day, I was elbow deep in warm dishwater while the girls played outside and Todd did yard work.  We had just finished dinner and I was straightening up while they were enjoying the last light of day.  I looked out the window above the sink and realized that all three girls were dancing with what appeared to be long branches. 
No.
I don’t think I even turned off the water as I ran out to confirm my suspicion. The blossoms…
No. NO. NO.

They were branches from Audrey’s cherry blossom tree, which had just come into full bloom a few days earlier.
“Where did you get those from? Girls? GIRLS!” They turned and looked at me. The tone of my voice scared them, and they thought they were in trouble. In my head, I knew this was not rational. This isn’t actually my child…it’s a tree.
But it’s her tree. 
I was trying to stay calm, but not having much success.
“Daddy gave them to us, mommy.” Abby said, watching my face to see if my wrath would be redirected. 
I ran out to the deck and asked them to give me the branches, still full of the palest pink blossoms, so delicate I wasn’t sure how to handle them without further damage. I think that’s when I started tearing up, and Kate told me she was sorry. I told her she didn’t need to be sorry, I was just sad about Audrey and I wanted to find a new place for the flowers. She and Abby ran off to play.
Ellie stayed with me, and just like her mother, she is always looking for a way to make things better. If you can find redemption somehow, the sting of loss is lessened.  You don’t feel it has all been for nothing.  This is the same reason I have to go through her pockets when we come home from running errands.  Without fail, I find tiny pieces of trash that she has “collected” throughout the day. She doesn’t see the top of a broken hanger as garbage because it could, with a little imagination, be used again.  I love that about her.  She gathers, she treasures what is seen as nothingness to others, and then she redeems it in her own beautiful way. I learn so much about my Jesus through the children He has given me…thank you, Lord.
“I have a great idea, mommy! Let’s take them inside and put them in a tall vase and they will be so pretty. And I will find a place for them and everyone will see them. I know where the vases are, mommy. They’re under the sink. Let’s go find them.” She tugged on my soapy hand and led me back into the house.  I was clinging to the flowers, and the tears were falling. I just couldn’t hold it in.  She reached far into the back of the cabinet and handed me a tall vase. Silently, we worked to fill it with water and put the branches in it.  
“That looks great! It’s better than when it’s on the tree, even, don’t you think? I do!” She was desperate to make it right.
“It looks wonderful, baby.  Everyone will love it when they come over. Thanks for your help, hon.” I bent down and kissed her flushed cheeks. I told her she was more special than she knew. I told her I loved her. I told her God was going to bless her life the way she blessed others.  She smiled and skipped out of the house.
I fell apart.
When I saw Todd I asked him (in a less than kind way…) exactly what would have possessed him to cut down these huge branches from her tree without telling me.  If I didn’t have mascara running down my face, he probably would have been tempted to mention that I have never really taken an interest in our landscaping before, but he just looked at me. I think I yelled at him for 5 straight minutes without him saying a word. And it was the kind of screaming that was half crying and half madness, the kind where you don’t even know what you’re saying because it hurts too much to try and make it make sense.
Finally I stopped. He took a step forward and reached out to me. At that moment, I didn’t want him. I wanted her. I wanted this to be somebody else’s life, somebody else’s tree…somebody else’s baby.
I wanted a candle, a cake, and that tiny redheaded girl. 
He saw it all in my face, and he looked like he was going to cry. He tried to explain it to me, and I was half listening while I looked at the gap where there had been life on the tree a few moments ago. It was all wrong.
“…honey, I wasn’t cutting it down; I was just pruning it so that it will grow back. That’s what you do to keep it alive…that’s just what you do…I’m so sorry, I didn’t even think…” He trailed off and I looked at him.
“It was beautiful and now it’s empty, Todd. How does that help exactly?” I stared at him, waiting for an answer that would make the world make sense at that moment.
“It’s what you do to make it grow, baby. It will grow back.” He hugged me and I continued to cry.
I wanted to believe him.

The truth is that I am a year past her death and I don’t understand it any better than I ever have. I don’t know if I expected some great wisdom to drop into my lap because of the calendar day, or if I believed that a little perspective would make it all make sense.
There certainly have been moments where I have had more precious communion with the Lord than I have ever had before, and times I felt such peace I didn’t know how to express gratitude.
There have also been moments (many of them) where I shout out to God because I want to know if she would have been walking by now. I want to know if she would be a cuddler or an independent little thing. I want to take her to the beach and show her the great big ocean and tell her about life.  I want to know if she would have married, had her own children, had a passion for her calling in life.
I want her. I just want her.
No beautiful bow on the package today, although I know He will give me the peace to get through the day.
As I was writing this post, I randomly opened one of my favorite books. It’s called Turn My Mourning into Dancing by the brilliant Henri Nouwen. I am sure He is smiling at this moment, because I started skimming through it and landed on a page with these words on it…
“Pruning means cutting, reshaping, removing what diminishes vitality. When we look at a pruned vineyard, we can hardly believe it will bear fruit.  But when the harvest comes, we realize that the pruning allowed the vines to concentrate their energy and produce more grapes. Grateful people learn to celebrate even amid life’s hard and harrowing memories because they know that pruning is no mere punishment, but preparation. 

When our gratitude for the past is only partial, our hope for the future can likewise never be full.  But our submitting to God’s pruning work will not ultimately leave us sad, but hopeful for what can happen in us and through us.  Harvesttime will bring its own blessings…pg19″

Harvesttime. 
That’s what I am waiting on, I guess. The day when all the growth comes and all the sorrow passes.  Most likely, it will not happen fully in this life; a reality which I am daily coming to terms with.
In the meantime, I am putting my full weight into the Lord, because He has told me that there will come a day when I will see her again.  The pruning was with purpose-one that I cannot understand from this vantage point.
That’s what He says.
And I want to believe Him.

In a few short weeks, I will be in India with a group of people who are committed to changing the lives of children living in poverty. I can tell you that I would not have been a part of this opportunity unless I had lost her.  I can also say that I love in a new way, and it makes me want to be braver than I am.  As a sidebar, I am reading this book right now (Thanks, Jess D.) and it is incredible. And, turns out in the 1800′s they took boats to Calcutta. Compassion did not offer me that option, for the record…
I really wanted to try and find some way to “give back” on 4/7, so I was so happy when sweet Tina from Baby Be Blessed contacted me awhile ago and we started talking about how we could do this.  I am so grateful for her heart and her love for the Lord, and so honored that she would allow me to make this offer to you…any Compassion child who is sponsored from my blog on Audrey’s Birthday will have a handmade lamb (with scripture) sent to their sponsored child in honor of my sweet girl.

I know that this is a hard time financially in general, so please don’t feel any pressure. Seek the Holy Spirit and if you feel that this is something you would like to do, just make sure and email me your child’s information (angelac519@gmail.com) so that we can make sure to get them their gifts. Several of you have emailed me a page that must come up after you sponsor, so you can just forward that along.  
We have some things that we will be doing as a family tomorrow to celebrate Audrey’s life, and I ask for your prayers on this day.  I am not sure what to expect, and above all, I want the Lord to be lifted high. I know my baby is safe and sound, and as Abby said to me the other day, “She will probably have a really awesome party this year.”
I bet she’s right.
We miss you, sweet baby girl. 
You are so, so loved.
Mommy