I Will Carry You, with Angie SmithBand-Aids on a Heart
Leslie Basham: Angie Smith found a stuffed animal that her daughters would appreciate and she took it home to her family.
Angie Smith: We sort of used that as an example that they would understand of what was happening and allowed the children to put band-aids on the bunny's heart.
Nancy: Angie decided to use this stuffed animal to tell her little girls about a serious medical condition that was about to affect the entire family.
Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, April 21.
We're excited about True Woman '14—the conference coming to Indianapolis October 9–11. Today Nancy's talking with one of the speakers coming to True Woman—Angie Smith.
Nancy: We hear from a lot of Revive Our Hearts listeners who share with us the losses, sorrows, and griefs that they carry in relation to different seasons of life. Many times, it relates to the loss of a child—maybe a miscarriage, a stillborn child, or perhaps an older child that the Lord, in His mysterious providence, chooses to take home to be with Him.
I think there is nothing like the pain of a mother losing a child. I'm so grateful that we have with us in the studio this week my friend Angie Smith. Now, that name is familiar to many of our listeners. Angie is the wife of Todd Smith, who is the lead singer of the popular Christian group called Selah. I've heard them a number of times and have been blessed by their ministry.
Angie is an author; she's a blogger; she's a conference speaker; she's a wife and mom, and she has a powerful testimoney of God's grace in her life in a season of great loss. We'll be hearing more about that over the next few days.
I'm excited to let you know that Angie will be joining us at the True Woman '14 conference this October in Indianapolis. The theme of this year's True Woman conference is: Finding Freedom, Fullness, and Fruitfulness in Christ.
I know the Lord is going to use Angie to help a lot of hurting women get to deep, heart issues as they get away for a weekend to seek the Lord. For details on True Woman '14, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.
Angie, thank you so much for joining us on Revive Our Hearts and for opening your heart to share with us your journey of walking through the loss of a child. I know we have listeners today who are walking through that experience themselves. Perhaps they are facing a different sort of loss. I really believe that your words, your story, is going to be a great encouragement to many of our listeners.
Angie: Thank you. I'm so glad to be here.
Nancy: I know from the time you were really young, you had a love for children. Did you just always want to be a mother?
Angie: I really did. I think I was that typical child who had a baby doll in a stroller pushing her around. That sort of nurturing side came out of me, and absolutely that was the longing I had in my heart. I felt like one day that was my ultimate calling, to be a mother.
Nancy: So when you and Todd got married, did you talk about wanting to have children?
Angie: We did. We hadn't really finished talking about it when I found out I was expecting, which is sometimes the way that the Lord works.
Nancy: Within your first year of marriage, right?
Angie: Within a few months of being married, actually. So it was a great surprise to both of us. Just about the time that were able to settle in and be excited about it, we actually lost that child about eight weeks into the pregnancy. So that was quite a blow early in our marriage.
Nancy: So how did you deal with that blow at the time?
Angie: I think it brought out in me . . . I knew I had always wanted to have children. Todd and I had this brilliant "on paper" plan, which you know the Lord looks at . . .
Nancy: He specializes in changing.
Angie: He's a great editor. But "my plan" was to wait a few years to have children. After we had this loss, there was a stirring in my heart. I felt like it was time for us to start our family. Pretty shortly after that we conceived again.
Nancy: Were you afraid at that time of losing another child? Did you have to deal with some of those kinds of emotions?
Angie: I did. And speaking to other women who have had miscarriages first, I think that's a really common fear. There's that part of you that says maybe my body just isn't made for this. Maybe this isn't something I'll get to experience.
So we waited with baited breath for the first few weeks of the pregnancy. Then we found out pretty shortly into it, actually about eight weeks, that we were expecting two babies instead of just one.
Nancy: The Lord did bless you with a set of twin girls. But again, it wasn't an easy path to the delivery, was it?
Angie: It wasn't. I went into labor at about twenty-five weeks. I had some amazing doctors around me and was put on bed rest in the hospital for about ten weeks. I ended up having two beautiful, healthy, little baby girls. They were very small—3 lb. 11 oz. and 4 lb. 11 oz.—with precious bright red hair.
Nancy: Like yours.
Angie: Yes, and Todd's, which is funny. We have a lot of red in both of our families. They were born at thirty-five weeks. Abby had to stay in the NICU for a few weeks because of her weight. But other than that, they were just perfectly healthy and such blessings right from the start.
Nancy: So in those early years as as a mom of little ones, you describe having feels of "this is paradise; this is incredible; I'm a great mom; things are going great." That's what you were experiencing?
Angie: It was. They were by nature from birth very easy-going. They had this really special bond between the two of them.
I remember one night in their crib (they shared a crib). Abby had come home from the NICU and she wouldn't stop crying. We rocked her and we sang to her. We did everything, and finally, we just put her down and said, "We don't know what to do."
I remember praying the family room, "What are we doing wrong?" And all of a sudden there was silence. Todd and I looked at each other. We walked back in the room and Ellie, who is two minutes older than Abby, but very much the older sister, had taken her thumb and put it in Abby's mouth to help her.
It's really neat to see the bond even from that age between the two of them. They were just such sweet spirits and very calm and obedient by nature. So I was under the impression that I had done it perfectly.
Nancy: Then the Lord gave you another child who did not have red hair and was different in a lot of respects.
Angie: She was. I like to call her my humbler. She came into the world with an entirely different viewpoint of how she was going to take it on. Abby and Ellie are more hesitant when they come into a situation. They want to sit back and assess and then become a part of it.
Nancy: And Kate takes over, with big, beautiful, dark eyes.
Angie: She does. They are very hard to say no to. I always say to myself that at the end of the day if I cannot pull out all of my hair that I can make it though this time period. She is going to be a warrior for the Lord. Everything she does, she does 150%.
Nancy: So you got pregnant again. Excited about that?
Angie: Yes, very excited about that. I must say, with the excitement, even from the very beginning, I had a catch on my spirit about that pregnancy that I haven't had in other pregnancies. In fact, at my first checkup at the doctor's, I was only about six or seven weeks along, but they noted on my chart that I felt uneasy. They kept asking about physical symptoms that they could check off on a check list, and it wasn't any of those things. I just didn't feel the same peace as I did with my other pregnancies.
Nancy: When did you first notice that something was different with this one.
Angie: The first time we had an indication, they had done some testing which came back slightly abnormal. But for this particular test, it isn't uncommon to be abnormal. So this doctor really wasn't concerned and told us not be concerned. At that point, the worst case scenario was that the baby would have Down Syndrome.
In my work doing developmental psychology research and working with children, I’ve done a lot of work with children with Down Syndrome. I certainly would want to know beforehand so that I could prepare and could prepare my children. But it wasn't something that we were really alarmed about the possibility of.
We went into an eighteen-week ultrasound in order for them to evaluate whether or not this child had Down Syndrome. Unfortunately for us, that wasn't the case.
Nancy: So you were with Todd having this ultrasound. What was your first indication that something was not right.
Angie: It was very quick. The technician started the ultrasound, and within what felt like a matter of seconds, her face just changed. I would say the air in the room just sort of shifted. I could tell that nothing was going to be the same after this. There is something going on that is going to change our lives. She was hesitant to answer any questions because of her role. She wanted the doctor to come in. I do remember asking her if she thought the baby would survive, and she just stuttered around and said “I don't know. There are a number of problems that I am going to need bring the doctor in to explain to you.”
Nancy: Did the doctor come in at that point?
Angie: He did; he came in. Todd's mother was supposed to fly back home to Detroit, and she also was unsettled and ended up staying in Nashville with us to come to this appointment with us. She was in the waiting room to be praying and to be there. In retrospect, it was pretty amazing. It was a gift.
Todd had gone out to get his mother to tell her what was going on. In the meantime, the doctor came into the room. It was really the first moment after that that I just felt His presence so strongly. The doctor said, “How are you feeling? How are you dealing with this?” I said, “My Jesus is the same now as He was before I walked in that door.” I just kept repeating it, and I kept clinging to it. I needed to hear it. That was the stable ground in this chaos.
Nancy: What did the doctor say to you?
Angie: He's not a believer. He nodded. I think he was relieved for my sake that I had something to cling to. But at the same time, he had seen the report that had come back to him, and he knew that he was about to deliver some really hard news to me.
Nancy: Which was?
Angie: Audrey had at least three complications that they deemed incompatible with life. Among those were the fact that: her kidneys hadn't developed properly, there was an extreme lack of amniotic fluid, and her heart was about four times the size that it should be—it took up about 80% of her chest, which is alarming in and of itself. More than that was indicative that her lungs were not developing the way that they needed to.
In that ultrasound there were several other more minor issues that they came across, but at some point, they stopped looking. They said they've seen enough to tell you that there isn't any point in carrying this pregnancy.
Nancy: So,they said that there was no way that she could live, and therefore, you should terminate the pregnancy at that point?
Angie: Yes. From a scientific and medical standpoint, there just wasn’t any hope of this turning into something life-sustaining. They actually scheduled a termination for the next day.
Nancy: And you and Todd looked at each other and up to the Lord. What did you do?
Angie: We were just in shock. I think it was one of those times where I was having an internal dialogue with the Lord. Everything that was happening was sort of moving around me, but I wasn't really able to be a part of that conversation yet, because I was coming to terms with what was happening in my own mind.
We did a lot of nodding and a lot of listening. Todd and I both had the sense—and we've talked about this since then—that we just needed to get through it and get out of there. We felt so overwhelmed. We just needed some space to be alone and be with the Lord and seek His counsel and not the counsel of those we were with.
We did allow them to put on the books what they scheduled was a termination, only because we wanted to see a doctor who had been instrumental in helping our twin daughters survive. He was going to be visiting the hospital the next morning. As long as I was checked in, he would come and see me on his rounds. We were hoping that he would give a second opinion. Of course we were praying that he wouldn't find the same thing that the other doctors had.
Nancy: So you came back and checked into the hospital.
Angie: We spent the night so that first thing in the morning we would be there when he made his rounds. He came through and he recognized me and remembered everything I had been through. He sweetly said he hoped he would never have to see me again because he is a doctor who only deals with life-threatening situations with the baby.
Nancy: He looked at the report.
Angie: He did. In fact, he did another ultrasound and found essentially the same thing that the other doctor had and confirmed that the diagnosis was accurate.
Nancy: Did he have the same recommendation to terminate the pregnancy?
Angie: His words exactly were, “My recommendation is that you not terminate the pregnancy, not because of my stance on the issue, but because I know what your stance is.” He is the same doctor who—I found out later, with my twins the nurses had sort of taken bets on whether or not I was going to make it, because I looked pretty bleak when I first checked in. He is not a believer, but when I delivered my twins, he came in afterward and said to me, “I just want you to know your God has performed a miracle with these babies.”
So there was a recognition of my faith. We had the opportunity to have many faith-based conversations in that time, and he knew that that wouldn't be an option for Todd and me.
Nancy: Even though you had some pretty close people, in addition to the medical personnel, who thought there were some valid reasons to terminate that pregnancy.
Angie: Yes, and I really empathize in a different way to something that is a black-and-white issue to me. In our situation there was an indication that Audrey might be in pain, progressively worse as the pregnancy continued. So there was a sense for myself and for Todd of, what would the Lord want? What is more humane in this situation? How do we parent her best?
We did grapple with that, but it became very obvious to us that God had a plan for her life and that we didn’t have the right to have a say on at that point in time. We decided to carry her. I'm so grateful that we did.
Nancy: That's the name of your book, I Will Carry You, which you chose to do by God's grace. Yet those next fourteen weeks that you carried Audrey Caroline were anything but easy.
Angie: It was a very difficult time for us. Of course, we had three small children at home. So there was always the balance of we want our children to have a hope in the Lord that surpasses any medical diagnosis, and we want to live in that hope. At the same time, we need them to be aware of what we think may happen, based on what we've seen. That was a very delicate line that we walked for those months.
Nancy: So your twins were five and Kate was?
Angie: Probably three during this.
Nancy: What did you say to your children?
Angie: Well, I knew with my background that it needed to be concrete. Pregnancy is such an abstract concept. It's hard for us to even comprehend what the Lord is doing in the womb, let alone trying to explain it to toddlers and pre-schoolers.
So we found a stuffed animal that had a mark on its heart. I talk about that in the book. We sort of used that as an example that they would understand of what was happening. We allowed the children to put band-aids on the bunny's heart. The bunny came with us everywhere we went. We really just tried to make her a part of our life every day when we did things and the places we went.
My kids had disposable cameras that they took everywhere. They'd take pictures of my tummy to say, "Audrey was at the ballet," or "Audrey was at the park." She was really very much a part of our everyday lives.
Nancy: You decided you were going to live life including Audrey during those weeks. What did some of that look like?
Angie: Well, my daughter Ellie decided that she wanted to show Audrey Cinderella’s castle. So a few weeks after the diagnosis, we ended up taking a trip—which was intended to be just our family, then sort of turned into a big family adventure with our parents and some close friends—and we did get to go and see the castle. We have pictures. We just had experiences like that. We would talk to her during the day. She was already their sister.
Nancy: And during that time, you began to journal some of what you were going through—initially just to keep friends and family updated on the journey. I imagine there were a lot of questions you were having to answer. That journal became a blog, "Bring the Rain," that ended up attracting thousands and thousands of followers who didn’t know you personally but were following that story.
You quote from some of those journal entries—some of those blog posts—in your book. Here's one I’ve opened to that you wrote just shortly after that trip to Disney. Let me read what you wrote, then let me ask you to comment on it.
I believe that in one way or another, God will answer our prayer to heal Audrey. It may not be here the way we wish it could be, but I have complete faith that she will be whole, and it won't be temporary. If you only hear me say this one thing, all of these words will be worth it.
For all of you who want to know the great secret to how we are breathing through this, it is pretty simple. He is enough. I am not a preacher. I will not pretend to be. I am a woman who realizes more and more every day that I want Jesus more than I want the teacups to keep spinning. In this life we are going to be disappointed. We will hurt, but there is great joy in the shadows, if you know where to look.
Angie: As a woman who became a believer as an adult, I hadn't yet had a storm like this in my life. I remember the emotion of that moment, having the opportunity to put my full weight into Jesus for the first time as a believer. This overwhelming peace that came with that, I just hadn't understood it up until that point. As much as in a human sense I would change things, because I love my daughter and I want to hold her and I want to raise her, I have loved Jesus in a different way since that moment. I did the thing that I hadn’t ever done before, which is to say, "You are all or nothing." Either this is going to be something amazing, or I am going to be really let down.
So to me, that time and the way that it shaped my faith and my boldness of speaking of Him, I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I feel like that was really echoed in some of my writings from that time. That even in the midst of darkness, I wanted people who didn’t believe to see a woman who was, humanly speaking, in an impossible situation saying this is not impossible. He is enough.
Nancy: You had to find Him to be enough, not only carrying this little girl that you knew, humanly speaking, was not going to live, but also just going through life. You talk about being at a friend’s baby shower.
Angie: That was a very difficult time. It was just a few days after my diagnosis. She was a dear friend. I didn't want to miss it. But at the end of the shower, we all gathered around to pray for her and pray for the baby—she was also expecting a girl—and our heads were bowed. As women went around the room praying for the health of the child, for a safe delivery, and for my friend's health, you could just hear sobs around the room because all of those women knew that was not the situation I was in, and they wanted to be sensitive to it.
I remember hugging my friend as I left, feeling our stomachs pressed up against each other, and thinking what different plans the Lord had for each of our children.
Nancy: In the midst of that, you had privilege of choosing to trust the Lord's heart when you couldn't see or understand the script He was writing. You kept lifting your eyes up, even when they were filled with tears, and turning your heart to the Lord.
I'm so thankful that throughout your book, you've included a lot of Scriptures that were particularly meaningful to you during this whole season. Not erasing the pain or making the journey easy, but tethering your heart and counseling your heart with what was true, rather than letting fears, apprehensions, and emotions drive your life.
Those fears were there, the apprehensions were there, the emotions were there, but deeper than all of that was truth. God. He is enough. One of the passages that you quoted is one that is familiar, but I think it became even more meaningful to you during that time. It is found in Isaiah 43. I just want to read these verses because as they washed your heart during that season, I think there are some listeners today who are facing similar or perhaps very different circumstances whose hearts need to be washed with these same words.
Listen as I read from Isaiah 43.
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine."
When I read that, I think not only of Jacob and Israel, but I think of you, Angie and Audrey, during this season. I think of Audrey Caroline, who you were carrying in your womb, who God says,
“I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, [it doesn't say you won't walk through fire] and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (vv. 1–3).
You found those words to be really true.
Angie: I did. As difficult as it is to think back on that time, there is a sweetness that came in my quiet times and in my walk with the Lord. Where, exactly what you said, many of these Scriptures we've heard so many times and take the depth of them for granted. There were certain Scriptures that I came across that I feel like I had read a couple hundred times before that, and I read them with completely different eyes.
We hear people talk about the peace that passes all understanding. That's a common phrase. My husband tells the story of Horatio Spafford, the man who penned the song, "It Is Well with My Soul." The background of that story is that he had lost four daughters in a ship accident. As he was passing over the waters where their bodies were, he was pacing the deck and saying, “It is well with my soul; it is well.” He wrote the rest of that song shortly after.
I feel like I had taken a lot of Scripture for granted and memorized it and knew the words, but I don't feel like I had fully taken it in and claimed the strength in it until this time. So looking back in Scriptures like the one you just read, Nancy, we can't brush over those lightly. He's called us by name. He knows our names. He knew my daughter’s name. There is just such significance in spending time meditating on that simple fact that I think I’ve glossed over for many years.
Nancy: Lord, I just pray that You would take the words that Angie has shared. I know we haven't heard the rest of her story yet, but even at the close of this program, I pray You would minister tailor-made grace to a listener, maybe many—someone or ones who may be grappling with the unexplainable, the painful, the script they never would have written for their lives, facing imminent loss or just recent loss and the pain is still so fresh.
I pray that You would assure them of Your presence with them in the midst of these waters, this fire. I pray You would draw near and that they would draw near to You and find You to be all that You have promised to be. I pray it in Jesus' name, amen.
When we come back on Revive Our Hearts tomorrow, we want to hear the rest of the story. Although it's a story that is still being written on Angie's heart and in her family, the book where she tells the entire story is called I Will Carry You by Angie Smith. I know that many of our listeners will want to get a copy of that book, and perhaps get one to share with someone else that you know is going through a season of loss or grief. I think it will really minister grace to many in that season of life.
Thank you Angie for joining us. We're going to pick up the story when we continue next on Revive Our Hearts.
Leslie: We'd like to send you a copy of the book Nancy Leigh DeMoss was just describing. It's called I Will Carry You, by our guest today, Angie Smith. We'll send you a copy when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just visit