On a Scale of One to Ten…

***updated to send  you all here, to my brother in law Greg’s blog.  I refer to this later in this post as a family prayer request, but wanted to wait until they made an announcement before passing this information along.  Please be in prayer for them..***

What do you all think the chances are that we are raptured before my flight tomorrow?

Yeah.
That’s what I’m thinking too.
I wanted to give you all a quick update before I left so that I could mention some specific prayer requests.  At this moment, I am feeling the most anxious about the flights, which shouldn’t surprise you if you have read my blog in the past.  Our first flight leaves Nashville around 4, and then we will meet up with the rest of the group in Chicago and then I think we leave around 7:30 for New Delhi. We will spend one night there and then take off first thing in the morning for Kolkata (apparently my friend Mr. Red Squiggly does not know that it is not officially “Calcutta” anymore, but rather, “Kolkata.” Why? No clue. But it is a fact).
That flight is (gulp) 15-16 hours long. 
So you may want to pray for those around me as well.
Generally once we get off the ground and are kind of stabilized above the weather, I do okay, but for some reason the thought of the whole trip feels really overwhelming.  I think the Lord has allowed me, to some extent, to focus on these kinds of things instead of really processing what we will be seeing when we get there.  I’m not nervous about being in India-mostly the getting there and getting back part are what has me in a bit of a panic.
I’ve been trying to play it cool with the kids so they won’t worry, but after the past year, they haven’t dealt well with separation.  Abby came to me a few nights with tears in her eyes and told me she had to confess something. She led me into her bedroom, gingerly lifted the ruffle on her bedding and dug deep under her bed to produce what I have been referring to as my “India shoes.” She told me she was pretty sure if I didn’t have them, I couldn’t go. She proceeded to show me other things she had hidden under there that were favorites of mine. Some were there to distract me from going, and others that she planned on holding onto while I was gone. 
I lost it.
I held her and cried and told her that I didn’t want to be away from her but that Jesus wants us to go help the helpless, and mommy needs to be obedient and brave.
Then I took a Xanax.
She was not privy to the latter, in the event that you are wondering.
As I type, Todd is starting schoolwork with the girls and I am sitting at my desk across the kitchen. I am thinking about the fact that I take so much of my beautiful life for granted, and I am humbled by the fact that I am going to come home several days from now a changed woman. That, I am sure of. And I cannot wait to see the faces of the children that Compassion is impacting, and the way that the Lord is using people oceans away to share the love of Christ with them. 
I just have to get on the plane.
And I have to say goodbye to my Toddy and these little faces (they suddenly don’t look so little, do they?)
The past week has been one of the hardest of my life.  Part of that has been that I was taking a pill for malaria that was giving me some very strange side effects, and I wasn’t sleeping very well. I called the clinic and they promptly switched me to another, which I began today, and I am hoping that this one doesn’t mess with my mind so much.  
There have been other developments that we have had to face as an extended family in the last week that I am not at liberty to discuss at this moment, but that have really been difficult.  The Lord will sustain us, but there are moments that feel hopeless, and I feel like the timing of this trip is difficult because I am having to leave a situation where I really want to stay and be available.  I hate to be vague, but when you pray for me and our family, just know that the Lord knows where those prayers are going…thank you in advance for that. 
The other issue we are facing in India is that there are some uncontrollable forces that may prevent me from meeting one of my sponsor children. She is the one who shares Audrey’s Birthday, and I am at peace with that if it is God’s will because the reasoning behind it is good, and above all, we want to try and be as safe as possible ourselves, as well as keeping the safety of our sweet Compassion kids foremost in our minds.  There are conditions where she is that may prevent us from meeting, but above that, I just ask for you to pray for her safety.  More on all that when I have a little more freedom to discuss…again, the Lord will direct your prayers…
Combine that with a major cold and some other weirdo effects of shots, and I guess you could say I feel a little off-kilter, and I so wanted to be in tip-top shape to be able to offer myself up to what the Lord has for us there.
I also have to say that I wanted to hear that Stellan was on his way home, and that all of my other bloggy friends were doing well. It appears that Stellan is going to have a little farther to go before they are able to release him, and I cannot imagine what MckMama is going through as she faces all of this.  Please continue to lift them up as well.
When I left for college, I would call home all the time just to make sure that everyone was okay. My entire life, I have felt the burden of “leaving” and not wanting anyone to need me while I was gone.  I feel that over the past several years, the Lord has shown up in these situations to remind me that He is perfectly capable of continuing to be God without my presence.
In fact, He has a pretty solid history of being God without me being in the picture.  
BUT, there is still that nagging voice…maybe some of you can relate.
This post is jumbled and I had intended to make some kind of coherent list of things to pray for, but I guess my type-A personality will have to rest in knowing that you all have helped pray me through the hardest year of my life, and I trust that the Holy Spirit will prompt those of you who have walked alongside me to offer up whatever you feel led to on my behalf.
The good news is that we will be posting each day from the 26th until the 2nd (I think?) on our blogs, so you can see all of the amazing things that God is doing. I will also be twittering a lot from airports and such, so if you want to follow my tweets, just click on the button on the right side of my blog and come along with us.
I cannot tell you what these prayers mean to me. I feel that this is one of the hardest things that the Lord has ever called me to do…it is a trip that combines all of my greatest fears (flying, being away from my family, the devastation of poverty…), and just on the heels of such great personal tragedy. I know that these are the places where the Lord is the most glorified-in our personal weaknesses, and I want to be a vessel for Him to use mightily.
That is, you know, if He doesn’t come back before then.
Love and gratitude,
Angie

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

Canvas

Have I ever mentioned that my father is a painter? 
He is, and he is incredibly talented. He is also a phenomenal writer, and I could go on and on about awards and things, but the bottom line is that he is just a man who has been gifted in many areas. I did not inherit the art gene (as evidenced by Abby’s recent comment after she requested I draw her a bird, and then earnestly asked why I had drawn a dinosaur instead), but my sister definitely did. She is so creative, and it just spills out of her effortlessly. In fact, she has her own business where she hand-stretches canvases, and then primes them and all kinds of other things I don’t understand because I specialize in Dino-birds.
About two or three years ago, my father pulled out an old easel and decided that after a long respite, he was going to start painting again. He bought all of the paints, the canvases, the whole bit.  He read for hours about theories on color and different approaches to painting, and all the while the canvas sat blank on the easel. I teased him about it, asking when he was actually going to do something instead of reading about how to do it
A few nights ago, the Lord laid the word canvas on my heart, and He beckoned me to be still while He spoke. I knew He was up to something, and of course I had to take others along for the ride, so I called my dad at about 9:00 pm and I asked him if I could come over and take some pictures.  My dad knows that I am weird, so he wasn’t surprised, and luckily we are separated by about 20 houses, so my weirdness only comes with a 2 minute drive. 
We talked a little and I told him that I was going to write a post and I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be about but that I would like to take some shots of his easel and some other things. He helped me move them around while we talked about life and I ended up staying a few hours, just talking to him and my mom about what I was going through anticipating Audrey’s birthday.  

One of the most common questions people ask me is how I got where I am with the Lord- how it is that I have this relationship with Him, and how they can do the same. I always hesitate to respond, not only because I don’t see myself as the ideal Christian (do any of us?), but also because I needed for the words to be God-breathed. 
I have asked the Lord for about a year and a half how to address this question on my blog and He hasn’t given me the words. He is urging my fingers to move, and so my prayer is that these words will speak to you wherever you are tonight…
Several years ago I decided that I wanted to get serious about my walk with the Lord. I wanted depth and conviction. I wanted real and tangible… I think, in essence, I wanted a surefire plan on how to do this thing called Christianity.

Sound familiar?
I decided I would start reading books that would teach me how to fall in love with God, and began with a beautiful book by Jeanne Guyon called Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ. I have comical memories of beginning this book, because the entire point of it is getting to a place where you can really have communion with the Lord, and a lot of that has to do with training your mind to be still, which I quickly realized is, umm, not my strong point. 
I was reading the book in the bathtub with the TV on in the bedroom while I painted my nails. Todd walked in and asked me what I was reading and I started giggling because it was kind of absurd to be multitasking while reading a book on being still. I came to love the book, and it’s one of my all time favorites. After I finished, I dug into about 4 dozen more. It became insatiable-this search for how to love Him, how to trust Him, how to live my life for Him. I would ask people how they did it, and I would go to concerts and feel moved, but still not “get it.” I did everything I could think of to “trigger” the relationship.
When so many people started asking me the same question, I didn’t know how to answer. It isn’t my nature to give giant, complicated Biblical spiels or to make myself seem higher in understanding than others (quite simply, because that is not the way I see it at all).  What I did want, desperately, was a way to communicate to you all how I got here, because I love Who He is to me. But I wanted something concrete because that’s the way my brain works (yeah- broken pitcher, scarlet cord, clay, papyrus, hem, scarf, threshing floor….I think I may have picked up a theme in my devotional-style writings :) ). 
I like tangible things that I can wrap my arms and my head around, and unfortunately, knowing Him and believing in Him don’t really fall into these categories, so how exactly do you tell others to “Just dig in and trust?”
In the days that have passed since I went to my dad’s house, I have been meditating on what the Lord is revealing to me about how I first sought Him. I read every book (minus the Bible, mind you) on “knowing God.”
I was extremely well-versed in theory, but completely lacking in practice.

And to be honest, there was actually great appeal in leaving the canvas blank.  I could stare at it and imagine the masterpiece, without the opportunity to do it all wrong, or worse yet, find that the whole thing wasn’t even real.

As I have let these thoughts rattle around in my brain, I realized that for a long, long time, I liked the idea of Him much more than the real Him. Madame Guyon and many, many others told me how they loved Him, and for awhile that was as good, if not better, as me doing it myself. No risk. I could read about missionaries and see this amazing Savior, but not really have to invest in relationship with Him. 
I just couldn’t take the chance. 
I loved Him from afar, through others. What beautiful potential….I would think….
So as the books piled up, the canvas remained blank.
I realized that the way I had teased my dad was exactly what God was trying to teach me about myself…I was far more comfortable reading than I was “painting.”
I’m not sure of the day or even what led to it, but one day I laid down all the beautiful words that people had given me and I let Him speak. 
And I heard Him. 
The Bible can be an intimidating, big, tissue-ish paged book to many, but when I opened it, I asked for Him to help it come alive for me and it didn’t take long. I realized as I read through Genesis that what I had thought would be boring and dry was actually fascinating, and filled my mind with the kind of images that no other book could. 
And so in a sense, I began to sketch.
Slowly, carefully, and with many eraser marks, the form of my love for the Lord began to take shape, and as I grew in confidence, I pulled out dusty oil paints that allowed me to brighten it, and I started taking the time to fill in details here and there. On occasion, I have taken a step back from the easel and I have seen things I never knew I could paint. He has given me great courage in the darkest of nights, and intense joy in the least likely of places. 
So how do I answer all of those emails, piled in an inbox, asking me how to get here. I guess He just told me…and I want to tell you.
Disregard the manuals and pick up the brush.
As we walked out of his office, the Lord spoke through my dad. 
Neither he (nor I) knew that what He was about to say would speak truth straight to my heart.
“You know what I’m thinking of doing, Angela? I’m thinking of just putting up a blank canvas and just kind of going crazy, you know? Not have a plan for how it’s going to turn out, but just get my brushes out and just do it.” 
He looked hesitant for a moment, because it’s out of character for him to approach life that way, just as it is for me. I want a good idea of where it’s all going. I waited as he thought for another second.
“I really think I’m going to do that.”
I smiled.
“I think you should, dad. I really do. It would be great for you.” I love this precious man because of exactly who he is and has always been. Loving, steady, dependable, trustworthy, and honest to goodness, one of the smartest people I know. I watched him walk down the hallway, his feet turning out the way they always have, and I wanted to cry because I have a father who loves me in a way that makes it easier to believe the way that God loves me. Thank you, dad. You have inspired me since I was a child to do what I am doing right this second, believing I could when I wouldn’t dream of it.
I am sitting in front of a computer screen that I have spent most of my life leaving blank, because I didn’t think that I was really good enough to be a writer. I think about all of the canvases in my days that I have left untouched for fear of failure. Do you have any of those? The ones that you leave in “potential-land” because you can’t bear to have them go wrong?
I think about the greatest masterpiece of all- the God I almost missed because I was so worried about the details. And all He wanted was a daughter who loved Him and wanted to bring Him glory.
So back to the question…how do you get there? 
You won’t find Him in a 17th century book, nor will He ever be truly found on this (or any other) blog. He isn’t found in a great sermon, or even a haunting worship song.  Not even in a Beth Moore study (although she can lead you right up to His throne, it is only you who can choose to bow down to Him).
It pains me to say that even (gulp) the music of David Crowder in and of itself cannot give you the peace that comes from one, solitary moment, when you hand your life over to Him. 
These things can be amazing conduits that allow us to experience Him, and can help us to grow in our faith-but they cannot ever replace the one True God.
You will find Him if you seek Him-He promises us that. 
Tonight, as my eyes tempt me to rest, my heart is beating quickly and with great purpose, because I know Who He could be to you, and I am filled with passion for guiding you to Him.  
Talk to Him, even if it feels crazy. 
Open the Bible and read. Ask Him to reveal Himself in the pages (maybe not Leviticus right away. That one can wait for a little while….)
Listen for His voice.
Watch for the things He is trying to show you.
Dedicate yourself to seeking, and you will soon be swept off your feet by the greatest pursuer of all time.
Even if your hands tremble, pick up the brush and see what He has for you… 
Have I mentioned that my Father is a great painter?
Well, He is.
I am praying that He speaks truth to your heart; the truth that no human mouth can convey, and no hands can quite capture in writing. I am praying that He makes Himself known to you, and that you fall deeply in love with Him. Head over heels, turn over your life and trust Him love. The kind that urges you to live with holy abandon.
One simple suggestion, though.
Don’t bother doing your nails.
They’ll just get messy with paint anyway.
Blessings and love,
Angie
P.S. In anticipation of you asking, yes, those color paintings were done by my dad several years ago. The sketch of a baby’s face was going to be Sarah Kate, and sat like this for months. When we received Audrey’s diagnosis, it was too hard for him to continue, and so it hasn’t changed. There is something beautiful about it just the way it is, because it reminds us that there are stages to this process…we will get there. 
We will get there. 

So Much

***update***

First on the list, there was a misunderstanding about the comment that was left, and the scarf lady may still be with us!!!!! It was written by a sweet lady who had lost a “scarf lady” of her own, but not specifically the one I was speaking of…..I am praying God will allow me, somehow, to find out where this sweet woman is, and I have a plan. I will keep you all posted when I find out anything about Ellie’s scarf lady, so we can be in prayer about her, wherever she is. I pray she is still out there somewhere, and I would love to connect with her…

ALSO. Last night was bad. Todd was tormented all night and neither of us slept at all. We both feel so oppressed and we are praying our way through life minute by minute. I could hear his hushed voice all through the night, whispering scripture, praying over our house, our children…

When I woke up this morning I was overwhelmed at the number of comments I had, and the number of people who had been praying for me. That was enough to bring me to tears, but when I opened my email, I literally collapsed onto my keyboard. I had about 100 emails from people who were trying to help me find the Bible. ME? WHO AM I that I should deserve this love???? I am humbled beyond words, and in that moment, the Lord brought a visual to me of the way we are to surround each other, pray for one another, and hold each others arms up when we are too weak to do so.

The bottom line is that THE BIBLE HAS BEEN FOUND. After a sweet reader called several Barnes and Noble stores in SEVERAL states, she tracked down ONE. And it is on its way to me:)

I am more than humbled. I pray that all of you all of you who took the time to try and help me will be blessed a thousand times in return….thank you.

(original post follows)

There is so much on my heart tonight, and I was praying I would have the strength to share some of it with you. My body and mind are exhausted, and the Lord is beckoning me to just be still and sit in His presence instead.

I will tell you that I have a lot of things on my mind and I so desire your prayers for wisdom in my own life as I deal with some very challenging situations that are so, so close to home.
We aren’t always prepared for the hailstorms, are we? Neither the drizzle, I suppose, but the past few weeks have been, well, torrential.
I really am okay, so please don’t be alarmed or worried. I love that I have a body of readers that start to write me emails when I haven’t posted in awhile to make sure I am alright. There are people around me who have needed me in ways I cannot go into here, and that has been my priority for the past few weeks. It is not over, friends, and we all need your prayers.
With that said, I feel (and I have said this before, and NEVER say it lightly) that I am under serious spiritual attack from the enemy. I will not give him the power he desires to have in my life, and yet there are days I feel sapped from the battle.
One of the things that frustrates me (and you may think this is silly) is that I lost my favorite Bible. I mentioned it before but I really thought I would find it. Well, I haven’t, and there are reasons that God gave me that exact Bible when He did, and they are related to some of the issues I am up against now. I know this sounds like a jumbled mess, but here is what I am getting to. This Bible appears to no longer be available. Here is the link to Amazon which shows the Bible, as well as the ISBN number, which is 031093978X. It comes in hardback and faux-leather, and I am looking for the leather…
I have tried to order it from several sites that say they have it, and then a few days later I get an email saying that they are sorry but they do not have it in stock and don’t know when they will. It was published by Zondervan and was limited edition, so I don’t know that anyone will be getting copies again.
In the event that you read this blog and you spot one of these, or you are the owner of a bookstore that has one, PLEASE leave me your information and I will order it right away. I am heartbroken, and I hate to say that because I know I could just buy another one, but as you well know by now about me…..there is a story behind this particular one and I would be so excited to have another. AND if I get a bunch of people who write me to tell me they have them, I will list them here so that others can buy it as well :)
And then if I could just get the David Crowder Band to re-record “All I Can Say,” I’ll be in decent shape. And I will have about 30 less emails to answer every day :) We need to start a campaign, I think. Based on the number of emails I have gotten about that song, the CD would be double platinum by now. David, if you are reading, please, do us all a favor. We need the song.
On some heavier notes, if you read through the comments on my last post (as I’m sure you all do, right?….), you would have seen a message from a sweet woman mentioning that the “scarf lady” has gone to be with the Lord. I believe she passed away in October, and when I read those words I cried as if I had known her all my life. I don’t know why, but I guess she was just someone the Lord allowed to fill a pocket of my heart, and secretly, I had been praying I would see a comment from her. It occurred to me shortly after that that she is now one of the only people I know who has met all four of my daughters…what a humbling and heart-shattering thought.
Finally, please be in prayer for the Sponberg’s.
If you that have read my blog for awhile, you may have noticed that today would have been my nephew Luke’s first birthday.
We went to the cemetery with Greg, Nicol, Summer, and Greg’s parents (visiting from Maine) and talked about who Luke was. We prayed over him and cried, and we had moments of just plain “no words for this” silence.
I am disappointed that there is a little boy who should be toddling around and learning to talk, and the best we can do is sit by his grave and talk about what could have been.
Todd said to me later this evening that I seemed angry, and maybe I am, but more than that, I am disappointed. I don’t have the whole God thing figured out (although I plan to spend a lot of time with Melissa in India, so I should have most of it covered by the flight home).
I know Whom I serve, and I know He knows my heart. Tonight, I am broken over the loss of a candle that didn’t get to be blown out and a song he will never hear us sing to him. I know he is in a better place, and I believe it, but it hurts so deeply I don’t even know how to articulate it.
I guess on many fronts in my life, I just feel weighed down with disappointment.
I just want to be honest with you all, because it doesn’t always get tied up with a neat little bow when you follow the Messiah. I wish it did, but it isn’t part of the deal.
What we can do is to pray, and to beseech the Lord to come to be with those who are in need and those who are hurting tonight.
If you would like to comment directly to Greg and Nicol, or have any encouraging verses or prayers for them, feel free to visit their blog and leave your thoughts. I know how much we treasure the fact that people take the time to share in our suffering.
Peace be with you all tonight, and I will be back soon….in the meantime, thank you for being such a sweet family to us as we face the next several months. There are milestones that we have dreaded facing, and yet somehow, He has brought us here, and no doubt, will bring us through.
With love and deepest appreciation,
Angie

The Concert and the Car Door (again).

Thank you so much to all of you who came out last night to the Selah concert (and to those of you who were with us in spirit!!!). I haven’t heard how much we raised, but it was a great night and my prayer is that God was glorified by the sound of His people worshipping together and giving of ourselves to try and help this worthy organization.
I had to go on stage, not once, but twice, and I’m going to head this one off at the pass.
I have gotten several emails already about my cutie-pie jeans and I wanted you to know about a well kept secret (hopefully you have these where you live). Certain TJ Maxx stores carry a designer section (the one in Nashville is the HomeGoods store off Franklin Rd), and they carry brand name jeans (maybe last season’s or extras or whatever) and they cost less than half of the orginal price (I bought a pair for about $30 that retailed for $180). So, I wanted to pass that along. Yes, they were cute jeans…go get ‘em if you can find a TJ Maxx!!!
Shirt and scarf were courtesy of Kohl’s, which I can’t help but love (Oh, dear. Bigmama just passed out. Caroline, could you help her up, pumpkin? What am I thinking? She went down with momma. Dad? Neighbor? Anyone?). That place has everything. I love Carter’s and they are actual kid’s clothes, as opposed to the string bikini in a size 6 I saw at Old Navy yesterday. Sweet goodness.
OK, it is clear I have derailed into fashion world…let me get back to where I was headed.
I was so encouraged by all of your comments on my last post. I loved reading them (sometimes I just jot things down in a notebook that stood out…really neat or inspiring words, quotes, people I want to pray for etc.) and yesterday my hand was tired. But overwhelmingly, what I heard was that you “get it.” You’re with me…how do we figure this thing out? I am on my knees over it, and I will be praying that the Holy Spirit will speak to us about how to live in the in-between, and that we will have hearts that are easily molded to His will. 
I loved the way it felt like we were all just sitting around together, sharing life. Trying to see how it all fits together, and keeping our priorities straight. I also want to mention a thank you to those of you who commented or emailed and expressed that you wanted to be a part of the conversation, although you aren’t a Christian. You are welcome here….
(Insert abrupt shift in topic here)
Yesterday, I closed the car door on my finger again (yes, completely closed). Different door, different finger ( but as my tough-as-nails 90 year old Italian grandma said after she saw it happen, “At least it’s only a pinky…”).
So it is.
(Another shift, please…)
I got an amazing email from Shaun Groves yesterday (he’s heading up our trip to Calcutta). I told him that I knew that chances were virtually impossible, but if there happened to be a little girl in one of the projects that we were visiting who had the same birthday as Audrey, I would like to sponsor her.  Well, there wasn’t, but he did even better.
Turns out there is a 9 year old little girl whose birthday is April 7th, but she is not at one of the places we are going. Instead of just signing me up to take her (which, of course I would have anyway!), they have made arrangements for her to be brought to where we are on a day when we are close to her so that we can meet each other. I am crying as I write these words because my God never fails to amaze me. I cannot wait to share those pictures with you. I will be getting her packet in the mail next week, and hopefully I will get to know enough about her to bring her a gift that she will like.
I get updated every now and then on how many kids are being sponsored on my site, and let me tell you, the Sundays know how to give. 
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I am so proud to be a part of your lives. Whether it be jeans, scarves, cash, service, bad habits, secrets, shame…..let’s come together here and lay it before the Lord.
And don’t forget you can just click on that little Compassion sponsorship button and change a life. It is an amazing feeling….
And to all of you who wrote in about the Casting Crowns song about the in between- I LOVE it- I had never heard of it and now I am going to download it. Good to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with it:)
This post is partly jumbled because I am tired, and partly because I have to hold my right hand in an odd position to not let it touch the other keys….BUT, at least it’s just a pinky.
I actually think there’s a really good life lesson in there. In fact, I think I’m going to put you in my notebook, grandma:)
(Final shift. I promise.)
Pete is starting a new series at Crosspoint (and for clarification because so many of you have asked, this is not my home church, although I do Bible Studies there and led my Monday night study there as well). We go to Grace Community Church and we adore our church more than I can say. We also love the Wilson’s and support their ministry- they are dear, dear friends. We listen to his sermons online and sneak over to some of their night services on the days we need a “double dose:).” As you know, Pete will be with us in Calcutta as well, so please be praying for Brandi and her three boys as we are away.
Pete’s messages are now available online…audio is up the Monday after a sermon and video comes up Tuesday if you want to watch. I loved this intro to his new series…it looks so good that I wanted you all to get to see it. I get a lot of emails from people who are home-bound for one reason or another, and this is a great way for you to feel plugged into a church remotely. 
Have a great rest of the weekend, and may His love fill you to the brim (and maybe even overflow a little:)) Remember to pause the music, and try not to be distracted or irritated by the fact that a boy has hair this good. 

                                       
Back Seat Jesus_Promo from Cross Point Church on Vimeo.

Here is the link to all of the messages…http://www.crosspoint.tv/nashville/media/
Ang

It’s GO time!!!!!

***update*** It appears that in about 2 weeks we will know the exact projects we are going to in Calcutta and it may allow you to choose children for these specific projects. Thank you so much for all of the emails asking about this, and if I hear more, I will certainly keep you updated!!!!

This is a jam-packed post. That’s life right now I guess…

I continue to be in awe over the time you take to send me notes of encouragement.
To those of you who have chosen to share the dark corners of your life with a stranger, I am forever grateful.
That kind of made it sound like I’m shutting this baby down, didn’t it? Well I am NOT. In fact, we are just getting started. I just wanted you to know that even when I’m not writing, I am stil grateful:)
SO, here’s the deal.
I have asked the Lord for a certain number of you to sign up to sponsor Compassion kids (and no, I am not telling the number….it’s between me and the Big Guy, and I’m trusting Him for it!!!! But I do promise to ‘fess up when I get home:)). By the way, these suckers have a way of tracking what site you were using when you sponsored, so they will know you were on mine (isn’t that cool? I think it is. I am amazed by technology…..:))
You’ll notice the new Compassion Picture on the top left column of my blog, and once you click on it, you will be directed to a page where you can see all of the sweet faces of children waiting to be blessed by a giving family. If this is something you feel led to do, GO FOR IT!!!!!! And if you choose a child from India (I don’t know if they specify Calcutta or not), I will do my best to get a photo of myself with your sponsored child and send it to you!!!!!
I would like to say I am excited about this trip.
And I am.
But it also makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth.
The whole flying thing is DEFINITELY on the list of fears, but I just found out that they have very strict rules about stealing adopting children right on the spot, so there may be no need for me to book those 15 extra seats for my return flight.
I pray every day about what I am going to see there, and the Lord has gently whispered to me that there is no way to be prepared, and that I am only to remember that He walks with me, and it will be no different in Calcutta.
But I have (attempted) to watch a few videos and I have a sense of what I am in for. Sundays, I need your prayers.
And I know how hard things are economically right now (trust me, we are with you in the season of “Oh this is what it means to trust God….hmmm…..).
Many of you don’t know this about me because it’s a little awkward to mix it in with everything I talk about here, but I am a real estate agent here in Nashville. I don’t bring it up because I am trying to get business (in fact, that is why I haven’t really brought it up…) As is turns out, I’m pretty good at it, and it isn’t because I’m a killer business woman. It’s because I genuinely care and pray for every single one of my clients (and I keep in touch with all of them!!!!). I don’t do well because I’m a shark, but because people trust me, and there have been many, many times that I have taken the short end of the stick so someone else could prosper. I’m not trying to sound all humble here, I just do what I do because I love it (I mean, how fun is looking at houses with great people and then watching them fall in love with imagining their new life there?!?!?!). BUT, I’m not a “pusher.” So, the gist of this paragraph is that I’m not great at asking for money.
For myself.
When it comes to the poor, well, that’s a whole ‘nother (yeah, i know that’s not a word, I see the red squiggle under it…) story.
I’m not going to hammer it in to you all, but I want you to be a part of this. If you have kids, make them a part of it too. Let them look at these sweet faces and tell them what your money is doing for them every month. You might be surprised.
I know I was.
Yesterday Abby and Ellie brought me a dirty sack of change they had spent hours gathering from around the house and told me that they wanted to send it to the poor kids in India.
I praised them for their efforts with tears streaming down my face and then I took the bag and hightailed it to Starbucks for a Grande Mocha.
I really hope my sense of humor translates, because on occasion, it hasn’t. I received several (very sweet) emails informing me that there was no Biblical reason to believe that there are actual chairs in heaven. I do know that, and yet, will continue to contend that if there are, Beth Moore will have a good one. Did I mention that her daughter Melissa is going on the trip???? So excited to get to know her better.
I digress.
It’s GO time Sundays. Let’s do this together. And by all means, if you do sponsor a child, will you send me a picture of your child on the computer, or a photo of you with your chosen child? I am going to be doing something with them:)
And, as a sidebar, please pray for my writing. I have been largely absent from the blog because I have been so busy working on my book proposal. I am planning on turning it in to my agent tonight, and Todd prayed over me and then sent me out of the house to write. Please ask the Holy Spirit to do what I know I cannot. I will keep you all updated every step of the process because you are a HUGE part of why I have the courage and ability to write it. I will simply say that at this point there are several wonderful publishers who are interested in the manuscript, and I am asking the Lord to reveal His will to me. Once the proposal is sent out, we will hear back from whomever is interested and will then need to make a choice. I think this process takes several weeks, but I don’t really know. I just know I want to have total peace with who distributes this book. It isn’t “just a book” to me; it’s her voice and His story, and I want there to be healing brought by it. Will you pray the same?
I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be able to check in here and just ask you to “hold my arms up.” If you don’t know why I said that, flip yourself over to Exodus chapter 17, verse 12. In fact, if you haven’t read Exodus, just plop down and start from the beginning, because as Boomama says, “It is a GOOD WORD.”
Well Amen to that.
A

I Loved Jesus in the Night…

When I was 8 or 9 years old, my father and I were having a conversation which has been retold for years in my family.
We were talking about the things I might want to do when I grew up (for the record, at the age of four, I apparently wanted to be a “robber” and my sister wanted to be a mouse. Mom and dad were really proud), the dreams I had for my life, the person I wanted to be and so on. He was not the kind of father who talked about nothing just to pass time with his children. He was (and is) deeply engaged in who we are and what we are going through. He was a VP at Procter and Gamble, and regardless of how many many people reported to him, he would cancel business meetings to come see me if I was cheerleading. His family was first, no question. And we never felt slighted by his demanding job because there was no competition. As a sidebar (and to brag on him), you are probably familiar with much of the work he collaborated on at P&G (“the night-time, sniffling, sneezing…so you can sleep medicine”). Yep, that was my dad (“I’m not a doctor but I play one on T.V” Seriously). He always wanted us to be thoughtful people, who took notice of the world and cared about those in it.  I grew up wealthy, but to be honest, I didn’t realize it until I had to fill out my college applications and check the “income” box. When he pointed gingerly where I should put my check mark, I snapped at him for not buying me the Guess jeans I had requested a few years prior. I lusted after those stinking things. Pink, gorgeous, popularity-ensuring pink dream pants…..oh I still mourn that loss.
So back to the conversation. We were living in Japan at the time, and my dad said to me, “Angela (yes, my entire family still calls me Angela to this day), if you could be ANYTHING in the world right this minute, what would you be?”
“Anything, daddy?”
“Anything.”
I thought for a moment and from what I have been told, a smile stretched across my face as I responded.
“I would be a suitcase, daddy.” I stared at him, waiting to see what he thought of my answer.
He looked confused, but he sat for a moment and then asked me why.
I started to cry.
“So I could go with you when you leave for trips. So I could be your little suitcase and travel with you.” He pulled me into his arms tried to reassure me.
The gentle crying turned to sobs. I hated when he left, and he was about to go on another trip. They lasted weeks sometimes, and my only consolation was that we always got a present when he got got home. I distinctly remember him taking a trip back to the States and me telling him that I needed a “clutch purse.” He didn’t know what that was, but promised to find out, and true to his word, several weeks later, he showed up with a red clutch purse with little wooden handles that I adored.
Many of his travels were to India, and for as long as I can remember, he has instilled in us a love for the country.  He would bring back pieces that he had bought, including a handmade plate that was made on the site of the Taj Majal and is an exact replica of the structure. My sister and I would stare at it; the way all the pieces fit together, and try to imagine it as large as a building. 
He glowed as he told us of the love of a man who built this for the woman he loved. After losing his third wife, Shah Jahan (1631) was so grief stricken that he built this incredible monument as a testament to his late wife, and it sounded like a movie to me and Jen, as we sat listening to the stories of places we would probably never get to see in real life. He made it feel like we were there, among them, admiring the beauty and weeping over the poverty which brought him to his knees.
After one of his trips to India, he brought back a small, carved box that we were fascinated by. It was so intricate, and the best part was that when you opened it up, the smell of sandalwood would fill the room. Sometimes I would sneak into his office and run my fingers along the wood. I would open it and dream of the man who would love me the way Shah Jahan loved his wife. 
It was all so romantic to me, so intriguing. He told us about the Moghuls, and all about the history of this country that he loved so deeply.  To this day, the smell of sandalwood nearly brings me to tears because it reminds me of a time when all of my dreams were set in stone, and I was just waiting for them to happen years down the road. It told me that there was a great big world full of such an aching combination of desperate love and unimaginable poverty. I decided that one day, I would go there (I didn’t have the, ahem, fear of airplanes that I do now, so this all seemed very reasonable).
A few weeks ago I posted a picture of myself with Anne Jackson, Jessica Turner, and Brandi Wilson.  Anne and I were talking about travel and she casually asked, “Would you ever go to India?”
I didn’t think. I just smelled the sandalwood and I smiled.
“Yep. I would.”
What I thought was probably the end of a conversation began what will surely be one of the most difficult and God-ordained times of my life.
Instead of telling you all of the details, click here and you will understand why. Anyone look familiar?
I will be away from my family for almost two weeks, and the travel time (each way) is approximately 3 days.  If you are trying to do the math, don’t bother.
It’s going to be a LOT of Xanax flying.
I would love to ask that you visit the sites of the other bloggers/folks who will be going (you know Pete and Anne, and Melissa is Beth Moore’s daughter, and will be blogging for the LPM blog while we are there. The trip leaders are Shaun Groves and Spence Smith. I encourage you to spend time with each of them on their blogs and get to know our team so that you can be praying for all of us.
Since it’s a Compassion International Blogger trip,  I will be able to keep you all updated every day we are in Calcutta (the 26th of April through the 2nd of May, I believe). We will travel during the day to different projects and then come back to the hotel to blog, so you will get to see what I do firsthand. I am excited, honored, terrified, and about a million other things, so please pray. 
I feel I am being obedient to the calling of the Lord, which can be a very difficult thing, but I want to bring Him glory. I want to live my life outside the fear and inside His providence…
So, Sundays…we’re going to Calcutta. 
Will you walk with me where Mother Teresa walked and look into the faces of these sweet children who need us so desperately? I need to know you are going with me in spirit because it makes it feel so much more safe. We’ve walked tougher roads than this together, haven’t we?
As a part of all this (and really, the goal), is to get children sponsored. We’ll get into that more as time goes on, but for now, will you be praying about sponsoring a child in Calcutta? It is $32/month and it will change his or her life.
I am quite sure that if given the question I was asked as a young girl years ago, they might say the same thing. I just want to be a suitcase…
This is our best chance do that, and provide them with opportunities they never would have dreamed of having.
I will be talking a lot more about this, but I had to at least mention it so that you would know. You mean more to me than I could ever mean to you (don’t argue. I’m sure of it), and when I step on that plane, I will have you all in the forefront of my mind, because you have never failed me before….you are so, so dear to me. 

“I have come to love the darkness-For I believe now that it is a part, a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness and pain on earth.  What a wonderful gift from God to be able to offer Him the emptiness I feel. I am so happy to give Him the gift….”  Mother Teresa

Thank you, each of you, for loving me the way you do. By the way, does anyone know a pharmacist who isn’t really into “moral distribution” of anxiety meds? Just curious….
Angie