I Will Carry You, with Angie SmithGod Will Carry You
Leslie Basham: Angie Smith experienced the pain of burying her baby daughter Audrey, but for this family, the pain lasted far beyond the funeral. For instance, when she was putting her other daughter to bed one night, her daughter asked . . .
Angie Smith: “Why did God take Audrey? Why don’t we have her?” Sometimes, as believers, we need to not be afraid of saying, “I don’t know.” I don’t need to know the “why” as much as I need to know the “Who.” So that needs to be the focus of these conversations. We aren’t going to understand it, and there are moments when we just have to say we don’t know.
Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, April 23.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve been talking this week about a subject that’s not an easy one. In fact, it’s really hard, but it’s a necessary one because pain and grief, suffering and loss, death, all these things are part of life in a fallen world. Realities that we have to face, and all of us will face at times, until that day when Christ makes all things new and all tears and sorrow and pain and suffering and loss are over, done, ended forever. In the meantime, we have to deal with those things.
I’m mindful of a passage in Hebrews 4 that speaks to people who suffer. It says, speaking of Christ,
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. So let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (v. 16).
We’ve been talking this week with Angie Smith. Angie is the wife of Todd Smith who is the lead singer in the Christian singing group Selah. I know I have been greatly ministered to by their music, and you may have been as well. Angie and Todd have lived a difficult story.
Angie's going to share out of her life when she speaks at True Woman '14, October 9–11 in Indianapolis. To get more details on that weekend, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.
Angie, you’ve been with us over the last couple of days, just sharing so honestly out of your journey. You share more in your book, I Will Carry You. You talk about the child that the Lord blessed you with until the 32nd week of the pregnancy, knowing that this child had physical issues that would be incompatible with life.
I know that listeners who haven’t heard what you’ve shared over the last couple of days will want to go back to ReviveOurHearts.com and pick up the programs, the transcripts or the audio, from the last couple of days.
I want to thank you for sharing so honestly about the challenges and the joys of the presence of God in the midst of this journey. Thank you for walking through it and now being willing to share that journey with others.
Angie: Thank you.
Nancy: When we wrapped up yesterday’s program, Audrey Caroline had been born there in the hospital, and surrounded by your husband and children and family members and medical personnel, her life was gone, and you handed her back to the nurse. You walked through the funeral, and you walked through the loss several weeks later of your sister-in-law’s infant child to compound the pain and loss of that season.
You talked about experiencing Christ walking through that season with you—something that would be unbelievable almost if you hadn’t been there and experienced that reality.
Nancy: And yet, now it’s after the funerals—plural—and life goes on, and other people’s lives go back to semi-normal, but your life is never going back to normal.
Nancy: What happens then?
Angie: I think the path of grief is so different for each person. Even the way that my husband and I have grieved and the way my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Greg and Nicole, have grieved are both very different paths. What we do have in common is that they don’t follow any certain trajectory.
There isn’t a right and wrong way to grieve—as a note of encouragement to those of you who may have walked through something like this. And, in the spirit of true honesty, I will say that this is without question one of the most difficult seasons of my marriage.
Nancy: Let me just step in there and say you often hear about marriages that don’t make it through a loss like this.
Angie: Yes, and I understand. I understand that without the Lord that would feel like . . . you’re just so sad. In some sense you know this is the safest person to sort of take it out on or to unload every emotion that you’re feeling, but men and women just grieve so differently.
Nancy: So what did that look like in your marriage?
Angie: Well, for me, I had been feeling her kick for all of these weeks. She was growing within me. I just had a different bond with her than Todd did.
Nancy: Todd couldn’t have had the same bond.
Angie: Exactly, and I hope that women recognize that and don’t have resentment toward their husbands because I have heard that many, many times.
Todd grieved in different ways. I remember about a year after we lost Audrey, we had a neighbor who had the same due date that I had and was expecting a little girl. She was born healthy. He had gone out to get the mail, and he saw the little girl out with her father, just walking her on the cul-de-sac.
He came back in the house, and he was just crying. When I asked him what was going on, he said, “She would have been walking.”
I think, for him, it just came much later. He had a chance to connect with her as an infant, but as time passed, he recognized the loss in a different way—and still does. It’s something that is obviously still very much a part of our family.
Nancy: So you really had to give each other room and grace to process this differently.
Angie: Yes, and if you don’t allow the Lord to work in those places, I believe they do turn into resentment. There’s a frustration of, “Do you not love my child the way that I do?” or “I feel like I’m doing this alone sometimes because you’re not grieving the same way.”
It would be easy for there to be animosity in a marriage over that, not to mention you’re just beside yourself with grief, and there’s a tendency for some of us to just shut out the rest of the world.
It is so instrumental that you maintain a prayer life between the two of you, and that the Lord is a part of that conversation, and that you allow Him to do healing and to extend grace in the gaps that there are in your marriage.
Nancy: As you and Todd have been real open in sharing this journey with others, a lot of people have come to talk to you or to Todd. You’ve found that different generations grieve differently as well.
Angie: Yes. I feel so blessed to live in a time when my wishes for time with Audrey and being able to grieve the way I needed to were so well-respected.
Not so long ago I met a woman who is a pastor’s wife. Fifty years previous to the time I met her, she had delivered a son who she’d had no indication there were problems with. Shortly after the child was born, they took him out of the room and then they came back in and told her that the little boy had passed away.
She begged them to bring him back in so she could hold him and look at him. They told her that he’d passed, and it was best that she not see him (and I hear this a lot), she just needed to move on. This was something that was done; it was a chapter that needed to be closed; it was time to move on.
Her husband wheeled her out to the car, and she said, “We didn’t speak of it then, and we haven’t spoken of it since.”
Nancy: Fifty years?
Angie: Fifty years, and in actuality, a few weeks after her son passed away, she received his death certificate. He had survived for another nine or ten hours and hadn’t passed until that evening. At that time doctors and nurses really felt that was the most humane option. They didn’t want to put mothers through this knowing that the child was going to pass away.
But I feel like the management of grief and the coping is so different in the situation where you don’t have that closure. As she sat and cried with me, it was very difficult to imagine what it would have been like to have not had that time with her.
I can’t tell you how many women have come up to me, either when I’m speaking or at Todd’s concerts, who say, “Tonight when you spoke of this and Todd asked for the women to stand who’d had a miscarriage, that was the first time my child has ever been acknowledged.”
And these are women who are in their seventies. These are women who have carried this for years. I just don’t feel like there is that same recognition and, in effect, the same opportunity to grieve as some of us are given now.
Nancy: As a result of what you’ve experienced, you really encourage people to acknowledge the loss or the grief that someone around them has experienced.
Angie: I feel like one of the hardest reactions that I had to deal with were people who didn’t want to talk about it.
Nancy: They knew about it.
Angie: Exactly. They felt like that was the best thing for me. It was all with good intention.
Nancy: Or they just didn’t have a clue what to say.
Angie: Exactly, but it was difficult. It was the elephant in the room. I mean, I can’t think about anything else. One of the things I love is from the beginning of the book of Job. There’s an image of those who came and just sat in his sorrow. I love that phrase.
Nancy: For a week they did it.
Angie: Yes, and in my case, there were many people who came. I remember after my sister-in-law’s son passed away, there were days on end where we would spend hours sitting in each other’s presence and not saying a word. There was comfort in the fact that there was support but we were comfortable.
People aren’t comfortable sitting in sorrow. We’re human. We want to fix it. We want to say the thing that’s going to make it better. There is nothing that a person can say to you that will redeem it in that moment. Only the Lord can redeem it, and it’s in His time.
The responsibility is so heavy when someone we know has a loss. It’s our good intention to go in and be able to say the thing that will make it better. But we can’t. The only thing we can do is to go and sit in their sorrow and let them lead that process.
Nancy: So sometimes just listening . . .
Nancy: Just being there is the most gracious way to minister.
Nancy: Are there some things that can be said at points that really will encourage? Were there things said to you that were particularly meaningful?
Angie: I would say speaking to women who had walked through a similar loss and were much farther ahead of me in the process.
There was one woman in particular who really ministered to me. She had lost her son around the same age as your brother and in the same way—in a car accident. She said that at his funeral even and many times after that, she would just smile, and she felt like it was the joy of the Lord sneaking up on her.
She just said, “There will come a time when you will laugh, and you’ll go through that, and it doesn’t have to be now. You can grieve the way you need to grieve, but I want you to know from someone who has been there that there is a hope that awaits you, and you don’t need to feel guilty when this laughter comes back into your life and when you start to have those feelings again. It’s a natural part of the grieving process. It doesn’t take away anything from what you’re feeling or the loss.”
That was really valuable to me because I think there is a guilt associated with that sense of moving on, and there’s a little bit of a pressure to move on. To me it was very peaceful to know that I could do it at my own pace, but to know, from a woman who had been there before me, there was a joy that would come.
Nancy: In the midst of all of that, you were having to walk your children through this process as well. So it wasn’t just your own grieving. It’s working through it in your marriage. It’s working through it with your children. How did you talk with them about all of this?
Angie: I think the best thing we did was just to be really open to their questions and to never make them feel like anything was off limits that they were comfortable with. Of course, we modified some things to make them age appropriate, but there was never a time that they couldn’t come to us with whatever emotion they had.
There were very difficult answers for us as Christians. I remember a time of rocking in a rocking chair one night putting my girls to bed and having Abby sit up and look at me and say, “Why did God take Audrey? Why don’t we have her?”
Nancy: You don’t have time to prepare for that kind of question.
Angie: You don’t, and so I looked at her, and I said, “I don’t know.”
Sometimes, as believers, we need to not be afraid of saying, “I don’t know.” We don’t need to know the “why” as much as we need to know the “Who.” So that needs to be the focus of these conversations. We aren’t going to understand it, and there are moments when we just have to say we don’t know.
Nancy: Was there a point at which you began to feel that life was coming back into your spirit, that there was joy maybe catching you by surprise?
Angie: It came gradually. So I do feel like, as time went by, and we were able to reflect and just process what we had been through . . . Life will never go back to being the same as it was before that, but we’ve come to a point where she is a part of our life in a sweet way.
A few years after she’d passed away, we decided to go on and have another child.
Nancy: Was that a scary thought?
Angie: It was scary, especially the appointment that we went to where we had received Audrey’s diagnosis and just sitting in that room and waiting for them to tell us. We were holding our breaths. And, of course, in the back of Todd’s mind, I think he had hidden hopes that it might actually be a boy, too, to help even out the odds a little.
Nancy: Not to be.
Angie: We did find out we were expecting a healthy baby girl and now have welcomed Charlotte as a member of our family.
Nancy: You talk a lot in your book, I Will Carry You, of the journey of the loss of Audrey Caroline. One the the things you focus on which is of particular interest to me is the choice we have in life to respond to pain with resentment or with gratitude. How did you apply that in this situation.
Angie: I won't say that it is an easy thing to do. I think it is very natural as people to feel resentment. But what I found was the gratitude that came in those unexpected moments was what filled me with peace.
I think about Old Testament stories that seem so far away and unreachable to me when I read them years ago. Now, I look back at them and I think of the moments . . . Specifically, I think of Abraham. I think about his walk. I think about the praise that happened in that moment, in that difficult moment of not knowing what was going to happen to Isaac. There was time taken to praise God.
I will say, even in the midst of this, in the moments where I did not feel like praising God at all . . . Sitting beside her newly dug grave, just clutching my Bible and begging God to give me wisdom, He led me to psalms all about gratitude and praise. To be able to sit in that moment and not to not acknowledge the grief, but to push through and say, "I'm not going to live my life resentfully. I want to life as a woman who recognizes what she's been given and praise the God who has given it to her."
Nancy: How did you find cause for gratitude? What did you praise the Lord for?
Angie: I praised the Lord for a lot of things that were little. Things I had looked past. As a believer, this is something that has really shaped my walk. There are moments in life where you start to do something and you feel like, I just wish I wasn't doing this. In that moment I have found such an amazing gift. Instead of letting that feeling be pervasive in that moment, I say, "Thank you for this. I'm grateful for this." Even something silly like washing dishes—which I despise. In that moment to say, "Thank you, Lord, that we have food to give our children, and we have hot water to wash these dishes with."
It sounds like a very simple thing, but what happens is you start going through these small moments in your life, and eventually your perspective really shifts. You'll notice that you might walk into that situation again and your instant response is gratitude, that you originally had to search for.
I think that is one of the things that really has been part of my relationship with the Lord since then.
Nancy: One of the things that is kind of pervasive in your book, I Will Carry You, which tells this story and has many of your journal entries and blog posts as you were walking through it, so it’s very raw, very fresh as you were writing it, but one of the things that kind of overarches all of that is this desire that God would get glory.
In fact, you say at one point, “Everything in our lives is an opportunity to bring glory to Jesus.”
How did that affect the way you process this, and how does it affect the way you view it today?
Angie: When Todd and I decided to sit down and write the song, “I Will Carry You,” for Audrey, one of the lines in the song talks about that “there’s a greater story that’s written for God’s glory.” I feel like that during this time my reaction to what was going on, as safe as it was with the Lord, and me feeling like I could bring that to Him, it was also an opportunity in simple ways . . . Being in the grocery store and somebody asking me when I was due and saying, “Well, my due date is such and such, but . . .” Just sharing a little bit of the story, and then the person saying, “Well, why would you carry that baby?” And then having an opportunity to share about the Lord in that moment, trying to bring glory to the One who was sustaining me through this time.
I said many times, “People aren’t intimidated by a baby.” So it was an amazing way to share the gospel in an unintimidating way and to be able to say, “Let me tell you about the One who’s really doing this, who’s really giving me the strength to walk this difficult path.” Mothers understand that. Whether or not they have knowledge of the Lord, I think in that moment they wanted to understand what got me through.
So, seeing the many, daily opportunities, hourly opportunities to bring glory to God, it sustained me as well.
Nancy: Your testimony throughout has been that God is good and to be trusted regardless of what the script looks like.
Nancy: It seems to me that the reason you’ve been able to fall into that perspective, to stay in that perspective is because of a bigger picture that this life is not all there is, that there’s something that lies ahead that this life is preparing us for.
Nancy: Just before we started recording here you pointed me to a passage in Romans 8 that had become really meaningful to you through this journey. Share how God brought this passage to life in your own heart.
Angie: After we had lost Audrey and then subsequently my nephew Luke, we were all in Georgia in this time of sort of sitting in the sorrow together. The place where we were had a swimming pool. My brother-in-law and I were standing at one end of the swimming pool, and we were both just sobbing and talking about how difficult it was.
While we were having this conversation, all of the younger children, especially those who were a little bit too young to understand what was going on, were jumping into the pool and making waves and laughing and just having this joyous time as if they were oblivious to what was happening.
Greg said, “There’s something really special about the fact that they’re unaware of this, of what’s going on.”
I remember turning to him and saying, “I think if we had full comprehension of where our children are right now, we would be doing the same, if we really had an understanding of what heaven is, and where they are, and where we’ll be.”
This Scripture that comes from Romans 8:18, says,
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing what the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed (vv. 18–19 NIV).
I love that moment, and I have held it in my mind many times of those children jumping around and thinking, This is exactly where we would be if we understood the Savior who is waiting for us and the future glory that we have with Him.
Nancy: Someone has said that God’s will is exactly what we would choose if we knew what God knows. Yet God has kindly given us a glimpse and said there is future glory awaiting, and whatever you’re going through here . . . We have a High Priest, a God who does weep with us, who sympathizes with us, who shares in our pain, but He says whatever that is, however many may be the tears, however dark may seem the night, weeping may endure for a night, but joy does come in the morning.
So God says that at some point there will be that glory, that the darkness, the night, the crying, the weeping, the loss will turn to eternal joy, eternal unending glory and joy.
You say, “What about in the meantime?” Well, God has a promise for that.
It has come to my mind, as we’ve been thinking about Angie’s story and the book she’s written called, I Will Carry You, she wrote that speaking of her commitment to carry this child, Audrey Caroline, to birth. But think about the promise of God in Isaiah 46 where He says, “Listen to Me . . . you who have been [borne] by Me from before your birth . . . carried from the womb; even to your old age."
Whatever happens between the womb and old age, God says, “I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; I will carry, and will [save]” (vv. 3–4 NKJV).
So whatever you’re walking through right now, let Angie’s story, and even more importantly, the promises of God’s Word be a reminder to you that God will carry you. He will bear you through whatever it is. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Even as Angie carried that baby to birth and loved that child, still loves that daughter, God is carrying you.
And then the reminder that one day faith will be sight and prayer will be praise. All tears wiped away, and we will rejoice with Him.
There were photographs I wanted to take; things I wanted to show you;
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes.
Who could love you like this?
People say that I am brave, but I’m not.
Truth is, I’m barely hanging on.
There’s a greater story written long before me
Because He loves you like this.
I will carry you while your heart beats here. 1
Leslie Basham: That song is “I Will Carry You” from the group Selah. Our guest, Angie Smith, wrote it with her husband Todd Smith from the group Selah. That’s also the name of Angie’s book. It tells the story that Angie has been exploring this week with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
We’d like to send you a copy when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for the book I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy when you call with your donation of any amount. Our number is 1–800–569–5959. You may want to find out how to get a copy of this conversation on CD as well. Again, that’s 1–800–569–5959, or just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
I know a lot of our listeners are excited to hear from Angie Smith at True Woman '14. Revive Our Hearts is hosting this conference in Indianapolis, October 9–11.
Angie Smith is a new speaker this year. So are Lauren Chandler, Blair Linne, and Jani Ortlund. And you’ll hear from True Woman favorites—Joni Eareckson Tada, Janet Parshall, and Mary Kassian. For the complete line up, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. And make your plans soon—you can still get an early registration discount when you register by May 1! Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
Well, have you ever told a lie? If your answer is “No,” maybe you need to listen to tomorrow’s Revive Our Hearts program. Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be teaching about a key ingredient to personal revival: Honesty. I hope you can join us for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
1 "I Will Carry You." Selah: You Deliver Me. Curb Productions. 2009, used by permission.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.