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devotional, Travel

The Sea and the Scarf

This photograph was taken on a “glass-bottom” excursion trip that was part of our cruise with Kathy Triccoli last year.  As a reminder, at this point I was still pregnant with Audrey, and we knew her diagnosis. I was terrified to go on the cruise because I can become overwhelmed when I feel like everyone is looking at me and talking about me. I am in a bathing suit, obviously pregnant, and there is no way around the fact that I am carrying a baby that will soon go to be with the Lord.  It was actually a much nicer time than I had gotten myself all worried about, and people were very kind to me.  Women would just sit by me at the pool and ask about the book I was reading, and then eventually transition into a story about loss in their own lives.
It has been about a year since that trip, and the other day I was reminded of one of my father-in-law’s favorite stories to tell about my kids.  This particular story involves my sweet Ellie (pictured on the little boat a few minutes before this story took place). She was mesmerized by the way you could see the “fish” swimming below us (let me clarify that “seaweed” and “fish” are seen as equally exciting to a preschooler who didn’t just get robbed by the concierge). It was a rusty, nasty, fishing boat and the “director” decided it would be more productive to flirt with the captain, so we were left to explore the wonders of rip-off-ville by ourselves. 
I would have been even more mad if my daughter hadn’t said something that I carry with me every day of my life.  
I may have mentioned in earlier post (probably about this time last year) that there was a woman aboard the ship who was battling cancer.  She usually wore some kind of hat or scarf, and for formal events she donned a beautiful wig, but the girls were concerned when they saw her at the pool one day and asked me what was wrong.
I told them that she had something called “cancer,” and that we needed to pray for her because it makes her very sick, and the medicine she was taking made all of her hair fall out.  They stared at me in confusion, and I wanted to tell them that everything was going to be fine, but that would have been a lie.  I didn’t know enough of her story to say what was going to happen, only that we should pray for the woman with the scarves. And every night, in earnest, we sat on our little cruise ship bed and talked about our prayers, and the “special scarf lady” made her way into their requests. I can’t tell you that they fully understood what might happen to her, but they were lifting her up as if they did.
I should preface this next part of the story by saying that Abby and Ellie don’t let people into their world very easily. They have each other and they have us, and that’s about all they need. We had to take them out of ballet because they were sleepless over all of the “people watching them through the glass.”  They love to dance, and if you came to the concert this weekend, you got to witness that firsthand…they love music and feel so free to do it, but meeting people face to face, one on one? Different story. 
If you meet them, they will most likely hide behind me and stare at the ground while Kate butts in front of me, introduces herself and proceeds to ask you to pick her up and carry her around like you’re a horsey, yelling “GIDDY UP!!!!” until you have reached sufficient canter. 
Todd and I have an interesting combination of genes.
Anywhoo.
All that to say, Abby and Ellie aren’t fond of strangers.
So when we boarded the little excursion boat and saw the scarf lady, I knew they were going to be nervous. 
So guess where Ellie sidles up? You guessed it.
Right in between her grandfather (Tata-Todd’s dad) and the “scarf lady.”
I almost passed out.
But then again, there was the whole gasoline explosion smell thing, so there were other contributing factors to my delirium.
The boat was so loud, and I was in so much agony over the choppy waves and the smell that I laid down for most of it, but I did manage to take a few photos.  I couldn’t hear the conversation over the loud motor (which we were pretty much sitting on..seriously), but at one point I saw Ellie talking to the woman and I was mesmerized by the look in her eyes. It reminded me of myself, and it was a side I had never seen in her before.
She wasn’t intimidated.
She wanted to connect with her. 
And in that little 5 year old face, I didn’t see panic or even sadness, but just a simple empathy that belied her age. I watched them pointing at things and talking about what they were seeing, but I couldn’t make out their words. At one point, Ellie pointed at her scarf, and I found out later that she told her she knew why she wore it, and that we had been praying for her.  I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling that if we could be this bold as adults, the world would be a different place. 
In Beth Moore’s study, Esther, she talks about the way we want to separate ourselves from those who are in pain, because we fear it may overtake us as well. It is human nature to want to fix things, and I know it because I am the worst of all. I hate seeing people suffer, and will do anything to make it go away. 
The problem is that sometimes you can’t. And I know, because  I have singlehandedly eaten three boxes of Tagalongs in the past week preparing to sign paperwork to dig up my daughters grave. And everywhere I go, those dang Girl Scouts pop up. I think they’re following me. I might need to put a call into someone about that….
(derailed, back to the point…)
Many, many well meaning people made comments to me about how much I had to be grateful for, despite the fact that I had a dying baby in my stomach.  
It was a nice way of saying, “I like your scarf, but I don’t really want to know what’s under it.”
As the ride continued, Ellie and the scarf lady kept talking. I still didn’t know what all they were talking about, but at one point I saw Ellie get very serious and start pointing at all of the things around. She would point, and then look at the lady as if making sure she understood. Then, she would do the same, this time with her eyes on the sky or the coastline. The woman was nodding and looking at her with love.
Ellie paused for a long while, silently staring out at the seemingly endless waters, and then turned to face her sweet friend. I couldn’t hear what she said, but the woman and my father in law both threw their heads back in laughter. I was really curious about what had transpired because it was so out of character, but I was even more concerned that I was going to vomit on the woman next to me, so I buried my head for the rest of the trip.
When we got off the boat on this little island, I asked my father in law what Ellie had been saying. This is as close to verbatim as I can remember from what he said.
Ellie started by telling the woman that she liked her with her hair or without it, and that she thought her scarves were pretty. She proceeded to ask her if she knew that God was a big God who could do big things.  The woman nodded sweetly.
Ellie then started pointing at the waves and she said, “See? God’s hands made those waves.”
Then, she looked up at the sky and told the woman, “God made the blue sky; the huge blue sky and all of the birds and clouds.”
She proceeded to inform her that God’s hands made all of the sand on the shore, and all of the fish (that we were supposed to see, but did not….bitter, party of 1, please.) Hypothetically, though, there were fish, and He did, indeed make them.
This continued for some time, and then there was the pause.
I asked my father in law what she had said that had made them laugh so hard, and he said that she had turned to the woman and said, “I think He did make all of these things, but I don’t think He can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
I laughed and kissed her wet, sandy head and we headed off for the beach. I told her that I was proud of her for making a new friend, and she smiled as she responded, “Yeah, she thought I was funny.”
As I sat and watched them play in the water, I thought more and more about what she said, and to be honest, it has become a very profound part of my journey with God in the last year.
Because I have no doubt that His hands, His HUGE hands make the sky and the earth and the planets and the stars and so on and so on. 
But is it possible that those same hands can wrap themselves around something as small as a knife? Something so small as my day to day needs? My hurts? My fears and doubts? The situations that seem like nothing to those around me but keep me awake at night?
He can make the waters part. No problem. That makes sense to me. BIG hands. Got it.
He can resurrect His dead Son from a cross. That sounds about right- He is God after all. Logical.
But can He wrap those same hands around the “little things?” 
The divorce papers that I have seen filed to a friend in the past few weeks? The fact that I have close friends who don’t know how they are going to pay their bills? The emails I get everyday asking me to pray about sick family members, dying babies, husbands at war…
I don’t know that she had any idea what she was saying, but in essence, I believe that the Holy Spirit allowed her to minister to a stranger from someplace that we, as Christians, are afraid to enter into.
It is the place where it’s easier to talk about the sand than the cancer
It’s easier to talk about the glory of His great hands than the face that you have no hair and no guarantees in this life.
Are there places in your life where you think, “God wouldn’t care about this. He’s got too much on His plate to try and figure out how to help me through this day.”

May I be honest? Sometimes I do.
As much as I trust in Him, believe He is Who He says He is, and welcome the opportunity to praise Him, there are moments (like this week when I lost my favorite Bible), that I think might just have fallen off His radar because He was trying to, you know, save the world and all.
I feel like a tiny, tiny sandwich, and it is hard to picture His hands on the little, tiny knife.
I know, I know.
It isn’t Biblical, and it isn’t true. I have dozens of scriptures that tell me that. 
Can I just say this, though? As someone who loves and trusts Him more that she could ever articulate?
It doesn’t always feel that way.

So instead of giving you the pretty Christian answer tonight (the one I know is backed by the Word of God), I am going to give you the human, Angie, the “I just signed papers to move my deceased daughter’s body today” answer.
It doesn’t always feel that way.

Where are you tonight, friends? What is it in your life that you can’t find Him in? I want you to know that there is nothing too small for Him to care about, and I am praying (for you and for me) that we open our eyes to the truth, and the next time we are faced with such an opportunity, I pray that we don’t shy away from entering in and asking what is under the scarf.
There is unspeakable beauty in the work of the Master’s hands, and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. I am praying the same for you-for His ever-present love to surround you, regardless of where you find yourself in the wee hours of this night. 
This is a weighty post, and I hope there is some part of it that resonated with you and, if nothing else, showed you that you are not alone.
Or, if you just came here for a good laugh (and to see that I am completely not exaggerating about my children), just see the photos that follow from the same trip I have been writing about…
God bless you all…and may the peace of God settle deep within you. Even in the little things.
Ang


Travel

Focus on the Family Trip…

I’m on my way out the door, but I wanted to post a few quick pictures of our trip to Colorado and give you the link to the Podcast interview that we did there. As the others become available, I will post them as well. This one was for a show called “Boundless” and is primarily for singles, so the interview is catered a little to that audience. We had so much fun doing it. Here is a shot of the woman who interviewed us (Candice Watters)..she is precious and she WORKS a scarf.
Me with Laura from String of Pearls
Some sweet Sundays from FOTF Chapel-
Recording an interview-
Me and hubbs- SO honored to be a part of the Sanctity of life week at FOTF. Thank you so much to everyone who thought to include us and made it such a special day.
And a shot of some of the women who made it happen!!!!! Thank you:)
Now onto Denver for a concert…quick Starbucks stop…look at those MOUNTAINS!!!!
On stage with some Sundays at the concert-

And some evidence of the “good hair day:)” You know as moms we only shower so often. To pull out a curling iron really means luxury…here’s me and a sweet Sunday at the concert. Her son sponsored a World Vision child!!!!! Is that the greatest thing ever?
It was a great trip, and SUCH an honor. Click here if you want to listen to the Podcast…we are #54, should be at the top of the page:)
Also, Click here if you want to leave a comment about the interview…
Thank you so much for all your prayers…
Much love, 
Ang
devotional, Travel

On the Road

I am writing from Lexington, KY, where Selah had a concert tonight. Since we only live a few hours away, we came up with Todd. I am so glad we did. We are staying in a very fancy hotel (thank you Ashland Baptist!) that is not helping me to empathize with Todd’s road life. Sometimes when he is touring and I have been at home with the girls for a few days, I start to feel sorry for myself and tell him that he is lucky to have a break. He then tries to convince me that it is not easy to be on the road, he is tired from his 6 a.m. flight, his throat is sore, they didn’t have time to eat dinner blah blah blah….

Usually I wait until the middle of a 3-child meltdown and call him to tell him to buy some hot tea and get over it.

Last night, as we got to our room (or rather, the “front” room of our suite) there was a plate full of fresh fruit, cheese, and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for us, along with a bathroom full of spa soap and a view of a lake from the “back room.” As soon as we walked in, I told him I totally understood how hard life on the road was. Suffering for Jesus, that’s my baby.

For the record, if you have ever seen Selah in concert, you will know that what they do is NOT easy. They give more of themselves in a show than anyone I have ever seen, and will sit at a venue until they have talked to every single person who wants to talk to them. It isn’t part of “the show,” it’s part of who they are. But still. Seven months pregnant with 3 kids 5 and under. You pick a side. 🙂

We went to Joseph-Beth Bookstore this afternoon (my favorite!) and we had a great day reading and playing. I ended up in the baby book section and chose a photo album that I really loved and wanted to buy for Audrey. I held onto it and let my eyes (and heart) drift into the shelves of newborn baby books as I stood alongside a woman who looked about as far along as me. I could feel myself starting to crumble a little, but I couldn’t help but stare at all of the book spines and dream about how great it would be to worry about whether to put Audrey on organic food, or how to get her to sleep through the night. After a few minutes, I started to walk back to Todd and I took a last glance at the sweet photo album. That is when I realized that it wasn’t a photo album, but rather a baby book, designed to mark the milestones of your child’s first year. I threw it down on the bench. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I barely held it together until I could find Todd. There are dozens of these moments every week. Hurtful, longing, broken moments. I am at a point where I just let them come. I sit with my sorrow for as long as it feels like I need to, and then I pray for the strength to carry it a little longer. I have the propensity to obsess over things, and it takes a deliberate, conscious shift in thinking so that the pain doesn’t consume me. Lord, you gave me this heart, and you know just how to love me despite it…

He made Himself known in little ways throughout the rest of the day. I’m always glad He chooses the little things, because that’s where I often look for Him. It isn’t always in the ways we expect, though, and we have to be ready for that possibility. Along those lines…

I have to share this story with you all, because it was just one of those “kid moments.”

I often pray for God to reveal Himself in ways that give meaning to what I am going through, and help me to share those feelings with others. He has always been faithful to that, and tonight was no exception.

I stayed in the church with the girls for the first half of the concert, and then decided to take them back to the (amazing!) nursery to play for the second half. I didn’t want to push my luck, and I think that Kate singing (loudly and about 2 words behind whatever Selah was singing) was starting to be “not cute” to the people who paid good money to hear the original version. While we were playing with play-doh, Abby started to talk about Audrey. She opens up more when her hands are busy and her mind is distracted, so I listened intently, waiting for glory to drop in my lap.

“Mommy, I love Audrey more and more and more.”

“Honey, I know you do. So do I.” I watched her hands form a little heart with what was now a multi-colored heap of goo (don’t judge me for looking away for 20 seconds. You know you can’t keep that stuff separated either).

“But do you know who I love even more, mama?” I love her sweet, high little reflective voice.

“Who, Abby?”

“Jesus. I love Him even more and more and more. And do you know what else?” Her voice hushed to a whisper. I met her eyes and waited. She was clearly about to share something big. I leaned in closer, ready.

“What, sweetie?”

“I just tooted.”

She leaned back into her chair, satisfied that she had shared her heart.

I, in turn, had to leave the room because I was laughing so hard I thought she might think I was making fun of her. Sometimes, when you are looking for the deep, meaningful moment that will carry you through until the next day, God just gives you a chance to laugh at the world despite the fact that you don’t feel like laughing. I am so grateful to serve a God who knows our needs more than we know how to lay them before His feet.

I pray that this Palm Sunday finds you peaceful, reflective, and joyful. I pray that if you are taking painful steps today, you are reminded that the Lord has walked them ahead of you, knowing what waited for Him up ahead. Take courage and know that He walks as closely to you as He did to the crowds, 2000 years ago. Thank you for your wounds, Lord. I rest there tonight.

I am planning to update tomorrow night when we get home…we are taking a detour to pick up a little surprise that I can’t wait to share with you all.

See you then!
Angie

Audrey, pregnancy, Travel

Home Again

We are home from our adventure on the big boat! Honestly, it was one of the best experiences of my life, and the timing could not have been better.  I have been dreading it for months, because I felt like I would be so exposed…a boat full of people who know my husband and therefore know me.  A bathing suit that shows off what is now undoubtedly the mark of impending motherhood.  I didn’t want to be stared at, picked over, evaluated, discussed.  I just knew it was going to be a disaster.  Well, I am happy to say that I was completely wrong.

The first night that Todd sang, he explained what was going on with Audrey.  I have never been present at a concert when he has made this announcement, and I was wiggling around, waiting for the eyes to seek me out.  As he eloquently shared our hurt, a holy hush came and settled in the room.  There was no staring.  No chit-chatting.  The presence of the Lord Himself redirected their eyes far from me, and I soaked in their worship on my behalf.  Todd finished singing “It Is Well” as the audience sang along, loudly, deeply, from the soul.  I saw, in that moment, what it is that you all have done on my behalf, and I want you to know that I was profoundly affected.  Kathy Triccoli came to the stage shortly after and asked for the crowd to pray for me.  She had them lift their hands to me in the balcony and then she said the sweetest, most heartfelt prayer you can imagine.  It drifted around me like a lullaby, and I just rested there, motionless and stilled.  If you happen to read these words, Kathy, I want you to know that the Lord used you to push our flickering flame a bit deeper into the shadows of our great Christ, and we beheld Him in wonder and praise.  Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your ministry this past week…we are so grateful. 
I wanted to let you all know that we are home and happy…today held a few profound moments that I would love to share with you.  I never cease to be amazed at the way the Lord chooses to reveal Himself.  I can hardly hold my eyes open, so I will pause for now and try to post more tomorrow.  In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine with us for a few minutes!
Much love,
Angie

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