(written on Sunday evening…5/11/08…Mother’s Day)

I feel so sneaky.

I have wanted to ask for prayer for the past few weeks, but I was working on keeping a real good secret, and I am proud to say I pulled it off.

Yesterday, I went to Texas and surprised Sara.

It was the greatest, worst day I have had in a long time. I woke up at 5 a.m. after only getting about three hours of sleep, and headed for the airport (and you all know how much I love flying, right?) Well, it’s a good thing I had no idea how bad the flight would be, or I probably wouldn’t have gotten onboard. Proof that God shields you sometimes from the hard stuff coming up because He sees what you don’t, and to get to it, sometimes you just gotta get on the plane.

The poor man next to me was very patient when I asked him if I could hold his hand and then proceeded to draw blood from his forearm while screaming “Oh, Lord…NOOOOOOO LORD ..NOOOOOO!!!!!”

In an attempt to distract me (note to anyone who tries this…if someone’s head is lodged in your armpit, asking them about their day is going NOWHERE), he asked about my travel plans. I told him I was flying to Dallas and then later that day, to Pensacola. He took his pointer finger and drew a little map in the air of my flight route with a questioning look on his face.

“That seems like a strange way to go.” He wanted me to explain.

I didn’t.

Later in the flight, he fell asleep and then we hit another “patch” of air. Let me rephrase.

I saw Auntie Em.

I woke him up because I felt weird about grabbing the hand of a sleeping man I didn’t know. And because he offered me his hand again, I offered him my story.

By the time I got off the plane, I was a wreck. He helped me get into the airport, and I thanked him and asked if he wanted to meet me in 19B on a flight to Pensacola later. I was joking. He was not. I pulled the old “I have such a tiny bladder” girl trick and ducked into the bathroom. Yikes. Not a good start to the day.

Sara’s friend Debra picked me up at the airport (here’s where it starts to get better). We had a great time chatting about the big surprise, and I started to remember why I had gotten on the dumb plane in the first place

When we got to the church for Elliot’s celebration service, Debra made the “eagle has landed” call, and we got into position. As I waited for Sara to come around the corner, I just kept thinking, She’s not going to recognize me. She is just going to stare at me and not know why everyone is acting like she should be excited.

It felt like about a half an hour passed while I waited in this little office, and then I heard someone whisper, “Here she comes.”

As she rounded the corner, her eyes looked right into mine.

I don’t know how to say this other than to say it simply.

We knew each other.

She blinked, and tears started coming down her face. Lots of them and all at once. We hugged and hugged and neither wanted to let go, because it just made sense that way. We would start to talk and then halfway through a sentence we would just start hugging again. It was one of my favorite moments ever.

I got to meet her husband Brandon and all of their family and friends, and they made me feel like part of them. They have an amazing support system, thank God. Several times throughout the day, people would be looking at me and ask, “Are you Angie?” They had been following my blog because of how similar the story was to Sara’s, and as a result, had been in prayer for Audrey. I cannot tell you how much it meant to put faces to the prayers..beautiful, sweet, sincere faces. Amazing.

The service was gorgeous and God-honoring in every way. We laughed at the way it mirrored Audrey’s, even down to some of the song choices, although we had never discussed it. I kept thinking about how grateful I was to be there and be a part of it. About fifteen minutes into it, Brandon and Sara read letters to Elliot.  I started to cry (in a pretty, “Days of Our Lives” kind of way). Approximately ten seconds after that, I shifted into the “snot flying out of your nose, making sounds that only dogs can hear” mode. 

Luckily, everyone understood.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this was one of the hardest hours of my life. It was like looking into a mirror, but from a different angle. All of a sudden it felt like it was too much to bear. I kept looking at the tiny box of Elliot’s ashes on the front podium, and all of the people weeping, and I thought of a book cover that I have seen and wanted to read. It is by one of my favorite authors, Phillip Yancy, and the title is “Disappointment With God.”
As the song “It Is Well” echoed throughout the church, Brandon stood up. A father without his son. He lifted his hands to the sky and sang out the words as tears fell down his cheeks. It was the most beautiful image of the Christian walk, and I will treasure it forever. But it stung.
I was disappointed with God.
Do I praise Him? Yes.
Do I love Him deeply and with abandon? Yes.
Do I trust Him? Yes.
Am I disappointed that our children are gone? I am.
I have said it before, but it bears repeating. He isn’t intimidated by my disappointment. It doesn’t make God turn away from me because I wish that things were different sometimes, in fact, it makes Him come nearer.
I left the service and ran to the bathroom. I always thought it was a dramatic movie stunt where people acted like they were so distraught that they had to physically hold themselves up. Well, with my hands pressed into the bathroom walls, trying to remember how to breathe, I realized that there is a grief such as this. I just kept thinking, Be here with me God. Be here and hold me up. You say You are the lifter of our heads…Oh God, lift my head, lift my head…

I continued to cry through most of the conversations I had that day. I just couldn’t seem to get it together, but it felt safe. It felt tender, like a fresh wound. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, because it has carved me deeper, and made me trust Him for one more day when I thought I wouldn’t survive the hurt.
I loved being in Texas. The whole thing. I loved the way they love Jesus, the way they love each other and the way they love me. Thank you…you all know who you are…thank you.
And to Sara…
He gives and takes away.
After meeting you, I know He has done both.
Thank you for allowing me to love your son. Thank you for letting me in to the places that don’t feel good, and the ones that are just right. There has never been a doubt, since the day we first spoke, that God has had His hand in our lives. I am praying for you tonight…that He will lift your head on this bittersweet Mother’s Day. I am forever grateful that you took a chance in writing a stranger, and even more grateful that we are no longer strangers. You are such a special gift to me, Sara. Thank you.  I can’t wait to spend more time with you and watch our children play together (the other four).  We may actually find out we have some things in common one of these days… 🙂
As many of you may already know, the song “It Is Well” was written by a man whose four daughters had just drowned after their boat collided with another. He received a telegram from his wife, who had also been onboard, and it said only two words.
“Saved. Alone.”
As he sailed to be with his wife, he paced the decks of the ship. He asked the captain to tell him when they were passing over the bodies of his daughters, and when he was notified, he said that the words “When sorrows like sea billows roll…whatever my lot, though hath taught me to say, It is Well, it is well with my soul….”  
It is one o’clock in the morning and I am sitting on the balcony, listening to the waves crash onto the sand. I am thinking of Brandon’s arms raised to God, of the look on Sara’s face.  I am thinking about how my Audrey is in the presence of the God Who spoke it all into being. There are moments in your life when you know that God is speaking, and you just want to listen and be still.  
Sometimes He comes in a whisper, and other times, in a roar… tonight, it is the latter. I am not alone, and there is a rhythm to the chaos, even if it is just for a moment.
This Mother’s Day, it is well with my soul.
I love all of the questions you all have sent to me, and I can’t wait to dig in. Thank you for caring enough to write to a stranger…although I guess we all know how that works out…
Did I mention I am grateful?