I Will Carry You, with Angie SmithTwo-and-a-Half Peaceful Hours
Leslie Basham: Todd and Angie Smith were introduced to their newborn daughter knowing she had a very short time to live.
Angie Smith: My husband would say that it was one of the most peaceful days he can ever remember.
Leslie: This couple understood that God was there.
Angie: His presence was so overwhelming that it brought a peace that sustained us in a way that neither of us had experienced up until that point.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, April 22.
We’re excited Angie Smith is joining Revive Our Hearts for the conference True Woman '14 this October in Indianapolis. We’re getting to know her better, as Nancy continues the conversation they began yesterday.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In the book of Ecclesiastes 11:5, we read this verse:
As you do not know the path of the wind or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things (NIV).
We’re talking this week with Angie Smith who has lived and now written about a story that I know is going to touch many of our listeners. Perhaps most, in different ways, have encountered something similar.
Her book is called I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy. It’s a story about the loss of a child.
If you didn’t get to hear yesterday’s program, I hope you’ll go to ReviveOurHearts.com and just pick up the transcript or the audio to give you the fuller story there. It’s a very touching story.
Angie, thank you for joining us on Revive Our Hearts this week to share that story with us.
Angie: I really appreciate being here. Thank you.
Nancy: You shared yesterday about how the Lord blessed you with three precious little girls in pretty rapid succession—twins and then another little girl, Kate, a couple of years later. Then within a couple of years you were pregnant again and found out at eighteen weeks an ultrasound showed that this child had conditions that were not compatible with life—that was the way the doctor said it to you.
Nancy: So you knew, humanly speaking, that if God didn’t intervene and majorly change something, that child was not going to live. But you and your husband Todd made the choice, against some pretty strong counsel to the contrary, that you were not going to terminate this pregnancy. You were going to let God determine how long this little girl should live.
You named her Audrey Caroline, and you walked through those next fourteen weeks, three months, carrying that child, doing life with her and involving her in the life of your family.
During that season you talked about how the Lord sustained you through some really emotional and difficult moments, painful moments that you knew lay ahead. Then came that point at thirty-two weeks when it was time to give birth.
Angie: Yes. After speaking with the doctors beforehand, just based on what was going on with Audrey, we didn’t think she’d survive the birth unless I had a Cesarean-section, which I hadn’t had up to that point. So my husband and I made the decision that that was something we really wanted to do just to fight for as much of her life as we could get.
She was born. She came out with bright red hair, blue eyes, just sweet as she could be. We fell in love with her the minute we saw her. Right after I delivered, the nurses took her over to an area where they were going to evaluate her to confirm the diagnosis.
We had told them in the event it is what we think it is, we don’t want any kind of medical intervention. We don’t want to do dialysis or anything that would just prolong the inevitable and put her in pain.
For a few minutes the nurses actually looked over her, and we could see them sort of whispering to each other. I remember in that moment thinking, “Lord, it’s not too late. All these people could see a miracle. Maybe it’s just not what we thought it was at all.”
Pretty quickly after that I saw their stethoscopes lower, and one by one they just sort of left the room. They brought her to me and laid her on me and just sort of nodded to let me know that she was very sick. Her breathing was already slowing, and they wanted me to have as much time as possible with her.
Nancy: Going into that day, you were journaling and posting on your blog, “Bring the Rain.” You’re talking very calmly right now, but there were some real moments of fear, of anxiety, which you had struggled with since you were a little girl.
Nancy: You talk in your book about how this situation took you to a place where you could not control your circumstances.
Angie: Right—which is a very scary place to be if for most of your life you felt relatively in control.
As I spoke of earlier, this really is the first time that I felt I was handing that to the Lord, and that’s a scary thing. That’s a scary thing for anyone to feel like they’re doing.
Nancy: I think especially for mothers as it relates to their children.
Nancy: If I just fully surrender my life to the Lord, is He going to take my children?
Nancy: We’ve got listeners right now—that fear is just welling up in their hearts.
Angie: Absolutely. One of the most valuable things that I feel like I learned during that time which will shape the rest of my walk with the Lord is that He can handle my fear. He can handle my questioning.
We spoke earlier of a baby shower that I’d been to, and I will tell you, I was pretty calm during the shower. Then on the way home, I beat the steering wheel of my car and screamed. I knew He could fix her if He wanted to, and I really felt at that point that He was just simply saying, “Bring it to Me. I know you have these emotions. I know where you are. I understand every bit of your heart. Just don’t push Me out of this. Bring it to Me.”
That’s something that I’ve walked with even in the years since we lost her. I don’t need to be worried about God being intimidated or threatened by my questions. It’s something that I get to share with Him.
Nancy: In fact, you say in your book, “There’s a safe place with the Lord where we don’t have to have all the answers.”
Nancy: So you felt freedom to ask the questions, but then to release the right to have all the answers.
Angie: Yes, and I think there was some points, too . . . I love a book by Corrie ten Boom called The Hiding Place, which is one of my all-time favorite books. I quote this in my book, but there’s a point where Corrie and her father are on a train. They’re about to get off the train. I think her father asks her to carry his watchmaker’s bag. It’s very heavy, and she starts to pick it up.
They’d been having a conversation about something that he simply felt she was not ready for. So when she started to pick it up (it was very heavy), he sort of took that moment as a teaching opportunity to say, “This is something I think is too heavy for you to carry right now.”
In that, there is a sense of letting go of control and letting go of your agenda and what you thought you’d be able to handle. There were many midnight hours during this pregnancy where I went to the Lord weeping, and I felt Him just say to me, “This isn’t something you need to be carrying, and it’s not something you really need to understand. You need to know who I am, and you need to rest in that and know that this bag is not meant for you to carry right now.”
Nancy: You wrote in your journal and then posted on your blog the night before you delivered Audrey a long post, but let me just read a segment of it.
I feel that I have been in the midst of spiritual warfare as I have walked this path, and I have constantly had to silence the enemy with the only word that can. I utter the name of Jesus as I get into bed, as I cry into the night, as I sense the evil that Satan has tempted me to believe.
So the battle going on really, many times was the battle of the mind. We all experience this. You were in an intense season experiencing that, but just in everyday life as women, don’t we experience the enemy assaulting us in our minds and in our emotions with things that aren’t true?
Angie: Yes. Yes.
Nancy: You found what the Scripture says that “the name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe” (Pro. 18:10 NASB).
Angie: It was an amazing time of seeing that He really was enough. Those weren’t words I put on a paper in order to make a profound literary statement or to make it something that was prettier than it was. It was the depth of where I was then and where I am now, which is that, God forbid, something like this should ever happen, but it will.
It will happen to some of the listeners listening today, and I just pray that if and when it does, they’re able to really put their full weight into the Lord and to believe that He is the strong tower.
This is coming from somebody who has struggled with that my whole life. I feel bold in saying He is.
Nancy: One of the things I appreciate about your book is that you’re very honest about the emotions, the rawness, the pain. But you also demonstrate what it means to tether your heart to the truth, to counsel your heart with the truth.
It was amazing to me as I read through this book to see how the peace of God really did come to your aid. I want to read a couple of quotes out of the book that would seem really strange if you didn’t know who the Lord is.
You said, “At one point I wasn’t angry. I was strangely impossibly at peace. If you were task me what emotion dominated for the next several hours, I would say, ‘It was joy.’”
Then after Audrey was born and you lost her, you wrote a letter to her, which is a precious letter. In that letter you say, “April 7 (which was the day Audrey was born and died) was one of the best days of my life.”
Now, you go on to explain why, but how could a woman who has just lost a child say, “There was joy; this was one of the best days of my life”? You actually describe it as “a peaceful day” for you and Todd. How could that be?
Angie: It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Nancy: It sounds impossible.
Angie: It does. I mean, to somebody who doesn’t have the Lord, it almost sounds flippant. It really does. It’s almost as if I didn’t understand what was happening. But that wasn’t it. We were fully aware of what was happening.
But we were so drawn to the fact that . . . I would say that the Holy Spirit was so present in that room that even as we held her, and we prayed over her, and we sang psalms to her . . . I’m a mother, and I have precious daughters here on earth with me. I want to recognize that, as a mother, this is the hardest thing that I can imagine us walking through.
I know how strange it sounds for me to say that, but the Lord really blessed that time, for all of us. My husband would say it was one of the most peaceful days he can ever remember. I think really it was in that moment we felt like we were being faced with one of the worst situations we would ever walk through in our lives, and His presence was so overwhelming that it brought a peace that sustained us in a way that neither of us had experienced up until that point.
Nancy: And you actually have on your blog site some video of what took place in the hospital room over those next couple of hours as you held Audrey. Describe for us . . . take us into that room. What was it like? Who was there? What was going on?
Angie: It was close family. It started out just with myself and Todd. Then we had invited our children to come in and see her. Then the room kind of kept filling and filling with our family and very close friends until it was pretty much jam-packed.
We just sort of passed her around. I like to say that we loved her a lifetime’s worth in that time. It was just such a gentle time. I watched Todd give her her first bath, and I watched his mother button up a gown that they had put her in.
Just moments like that that I really cherish because that was part of our life. Even the moment when she did pass from our arms into the arms of the Lord was extremely peaceful. In fact, we don’t know the exact moment that she went because it was such a gentle passing.
Nancy: And you were sitting there, holding Audrey, with your three little girls all on your lap.
Angie: Yes. They were, basically.
Nancy: They had been stroking her and continued to stroke her. On that video you can see the moment where you mouthed to Todd . . .
Angie: “She’s gone.” The nurse had come in and taken her heartbeat. It had been slowing, but she lived for about 2½ hours. They were 2½ hours that we had been told from the very beginning we wouldn’t get to have her.
There was nothing alarming in that moment. There was such a peace. I remember it being very profound to me that I was still holding her body, and her spirit was with the Lord. The children weren’t scared. I explained it to them beforehand, so they knew that it was going to be happening. It was extremely painful to recognize at that moment, but at the same time it was just a beautiful thing to be able to feel like I knew exactly where she was, and I could rest in that.
Nancy: And yet you had to hand her lifeless body over to a nurse. That had to be extremely difficult.
Angie: Without question, that was hardest part of our time in the hospital. We held her for quite a while after everyone had left. There came a point where her body was showing signs of passing, and we just felt like it was time.
It was maybe 4 or 5 in the morning. I had to push the little buzzer on my bed and wait for the light to fill the room as the nurse came in to get her. Just that moment of lifting her up and handing her to the nurse, and then watching the nurse walk out with her and close the door, it was just everything I could do to not scream and push the buttons and just beg for her to bring her back. But I knew I wasn’t ever going to have her again that way in this life.
Nancy: Angie, as I watch your face just clouding up with tears now, I think back to a moment when my family gathered around a hospital bed. After a week of being on life support, I saw my brother, who had been in a car accident, breathe his last, which we knew was coming, humanly speaking.
I remember a man of God who was with our family at that time took us to that passage in the Old Testament, where David, which was also my brother’s name, had lost a son. The Scripture says that when the child died, his friends were afraid to tell him, thinking maybe he’d just go nuts, go over the edge. When David realized what had happened, Scripture says, “He got up, changed his clothes, went into temple, and he worshiped” (see 2 Sam. 12:20).
This has been many years ago now, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget what our friend said. He said, “Our David is now gone. Now is the time for us to rise up and worship.”
Unexplainably, impossible as it seemed at the moment, as emotional as we were, that’s what we did. It didn’t bring David back, not in this life. Choosing to worship, in your case, didn’t bring Audrey Caroline back, not in this life, but you had made a firm determination that you were going to trust and praise God even in the midst of grief and loss.
Angie: We did. One of the most striking memories I have of that time was the day that we actually buried her. It was extremely difficult . . . this physical movement of watching your daughter be lowered into a grave and just the emotions that go with that as a mother.
A very special memory I have of the burial is that my sister-in-law, Nicole, she was in the group Selah for about ten years. She’s Todd’s sister. She had a newborn son named Luke who she was rocking with her. We had asked her to sing at the burial, and so as she held Luke, she sang “Be Still My Soul.”
It’s a precious memory of mine for many reasons, not the least of which is that, unfortunately, the month after we lost Audrey, that same little boy, Luke, passed away of SIDS. There was just this tremendous weight in our family that, looking back, I can’t even put words to it. Within a matter of two months we had lost two babies. So just a few weeks, really, after going through all this with Audrey, we were back in the funeral home, back in the moment. It was a horribly difficult time.
Nancy: And a horribly sad time, a lot of grieving, a lot of tears, but you talk in your book, I Will Carry You, about “the kind of sadness that allows us to grieve with the expectation of redemption.” What do you mean by that?
Angie: It would be such a different story for me, and it would be so more difficult if I felt like this was the end; if I felt like this was all I was going to ever have. In our sadness, I think, as believers, there is a space there for hope, for the recognition that this is not eternal life. In our eternal life, we will be with our Father in heaven, and we will be with the children that we have lost. So in this gap that would normally be an endless pit of grief with no relief, we as believers have the hope of an eternity with Jesus.
Oh, be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know,
Still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still my soul . . .
Nancy: That’s Nicole Smith and the group Selah singing one of my very favority hymns. That song meant a lot to our guest, Angie Smith. Her husband Todd is the founder of that group, and her sister-in-law, Nicole, sang that song at the funeral of their newborn child, Audrey.
Angie tells the story in the book you've heard us talking about. Again, it's called I Will Carry You. We’d like you to have a copy, so we’re making it available for a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just visit our website,