***update*** I am overwhelmed by the response to this post, and the number of children whose lives are about to change because of your generosity. I received all of the emails you all sent, but many do not include specifics about the child sponsored (name, ID number, project location, etc). Apparently when you forward the email that Compassion sends you, it only allows the reader access to the main site and not to the specific child.  Could those of you who sponsored send me all possible information about your child? I am trying to figure out if I will be meeting any of them in person, in which case I would love to give them their gift in person 🙂  And please pray- I have been told that we are only allowed to mail “flat things,” but I am optimistic that the Lord will find a way around that 🙂 I just need to figure out where all the kiddos are. 
Thank you so, so much.
(original post follows)
It hurts just to write the title.
 Honestly it does.
It’s one of many milestones that you have marked with me.  For some reason, when people have asked me how I feel about this day coming up,  I always tell them that I think January 7th will always be the one that I struggle with the most, because we found out that we weren’t going to get to keep her.  April 7th? 
In some strange way, that was more the day she lived than the day she died
That probably doesn’t make sense to you unless you have been in a similar situation, but to us, that was the day the Lord blessed us with 2 1/2 hours we didn’t expect. We didn’t take them for granted, and they are etched in my mind like an old movie that replays at the most unlikely moments. Bits and pieces come to me, float to me, live with me, remind me.
The other day, I was elbow deep in warm dishwater while the girls played outside and Todd did yard work.  We had just finished dinner and I was straightening up while they were enjoying the last light of day.  I looked out the window above the sink and realized that all three girls were dancing with what appeared to be long branches. 
I don’t think I even turned off the water as I ran out to confirm my suspicion. The blossoms…
No. NO. NO.

They were branches from Audrey’s cherry blossom tree, which had just come into full bloom a few days earlier.
“Where did you get those from? Girls? GIRLS!” They turned and looked at me. The tone of my voice scared them, and they thought they were in trouble. In my head, I knew this was not rational. This isn’t actually my child…it’s a tree.
But it’s her tree. 
I was trying to stay calm, but not having much success.
“Daddy gave them to us, mommy.” Abby said, watching my face to see if my wrath would be redirected. 
I ran out to the deck and asked them to give me the branches, still full of the palest pink blossoms, so delicate I wasn’t sure how to handle them without further damage. I think that’s when I started tearing up, and Kate told me she was sorry. I told her she didn’t need to be sorry, I was just sad about Audrey and I wanted to find a new place for the flowers. She and Abby ran off to play.
Ellie stayed with me, and just like her mother, she is always looking for a way to make things better. If you can find redemption somehow, the sting of loss is lessened.  You don’t feel it has all been for nothing.  This is the same reason I have to go through her pockets when we come home from running errands.  Without fail, I find tiny pieces of trash that she has “collected” throughout the day. She doesn’t see the top of a broken hanger as garbage because it could, with a little imagination, be used again.  I love that about her.  She gathers, she treasures what is seen as nothingness to others, and then she redeems it in her own beautiful way. I learn so much about my Jesus through the children He has given me…thank you, Lord.
“I have a great idea, mommy! Let’s take them inside and put them in a tall vase and they will be so pretty. And I will find a place for them and everyone will see them. I know where the vases are, mommy. They’re under the sink. Let’s go find them.” She tugged on my soapy hand and led me back into the house.  I was clinging to the flowers, and the tears were falling. I just couldn’t hold it in.  She reached far into the back of the cabinet and handed me a tall vase. Silently, we worked to fill it with water and put the branches in it.  
“That looks great! It’s better than when it’s on the tree, even, don’t you think? I do!” She was desperate to make it right.
“It looks wonderful, baby.  Everyone will love it when they come over. Thanks for your help, hon.” I bent down and kissed her flushed cheeks. I told her she was more special than she knew. I told her I loved her. I told her God was going to bless her life the way she blessed others.  She smiled and skipped out of the house.
I fell apart.
When I saw Todd I asked him (in a less than kind way…) exactly what would have possessed him to cut down these huge branches from her tree without telling me.  If I didn’t have mascara running down my face, he probably would have been tempted to mention that I have never really taken an interest in our landscaping before, but he just looked at me. I think I yelled at him for 5 straight minutes without him saying a word. And it was the kind of screaming that was half crying and half madness, the kind where you don’t even know what you’re saying because it hurts too much to try and make it make sense.
Finally I stopped. He took a step forward and reached out to me. At that moment, I didn’t want him. I wanted her. I wanted this to be somebody else’s life, somebody else’s tree…somebody else’s baby.
I wanted a candle, a cake, and that tiny redheaded girl. 
He saw it all in my face, and he looked like he was going to cry. He tried to explain it to me, and I was half listening while I looked at the gap where there had been life on the tree a few moments ago. It was all wrong.
“…honey, I wasn’t cutting it down; I was just pruning it so that it will grow back. That’s what you do to keep it alive…that’s just what you do…I’m so sorry, I didn’t even think…” He trailed off and I looked at him.
“It was beautiful and now it’s empty, Todd. How does that help exactly?” I stared at him, waiting for an answer that would make the world make sense at that moment.
“It’s what you do to make it grow, baby. It will grow back.” He hugged me and I continued to cry.
I wanted to believe him.

The truth is that I am a year past her death and I don’t understand it any better than I ever have. I don’t know if I expected some great wisdom to drop into my lap because of the calendar day, or if I believed that a little perspective would make it all make sense.
There certainly have been moments where I have had more precious communion with the Lord than I have ever had before, and times I felt such peace I didn’t know how to express gratitude.
There have also been moments (many of them) where I shout out to God because I want to know if she would have been walking by now. I want to know if she would be a cuddler or an independent little thing. I want to take her to the beach and show her the great big ocean and tell her about life.  I want to know if she would have married, had her own children, had a passion for her calling in life.
I want her. I just want her.
No beautiful bow on the package today, although I know He will give me the peace to get through the day.
As I was writing this post, I randomly opened one of my favorite books. It’s called Turn My Mourning into Dancing by the brilliant Henri Nouwen. I am sure He is smiling at this moment, because I started skimming through it and landed on a page with these words on it…
“Pruning means cutting, reshaping, removing what diminishes vitality. When we look at a pruned vineyard, we can hardly believe it will bear fruit.  But when the harvest comes, we realize that the pruning allowed the vines to concentrate their energy and produce more grapes. Grateful people learn to celebrate even amid life’s hard and harrowing memories because they know that pruning is no mere punishment, but preparation. 

When our gratitude for the past is only partial, our hope for the future can likewise never be full.  But our submitting to God’s pruning work will not ultimately leave us sad, but hopeful for what can happen in us and through us.  Harvesttime will bring its own blessings…pg19″

That’s what I am waiting on, I guess. The day when all the growth comes and all the sorrow passes.  Most likely, it will not happen fully in this life; a reality which I am daily coming to terms with.
In the meantime, I am putting my full weight into the Lord, because He has told me that there will come a day when I will see her again.  The pruning was with purpose-one that I cannot understand from this vantage point.
That’s what He says.
And I want to believe Him.

In a few short weeks, I will be in India with a group of people who are committed to changing the lives of children living in poverty. I can tell you that I would not have been a part of this opportunity unless I had lost her.  I can also say that I love in a new way, and it makes me want to be braver than I am.  As a sidebar, I am reading this book right now (Thanks, Jess D.) and it is incredible. And, turns out in the 1800’s they took boats to Calcutta. Compassion did not offer me that option, for the record…
I really wanted to try and find some way to “give back” on 4/7, so I was so happy when sweet Tina from Baby Be Blessed contacted me awhile ago and we started talking about how we could do this.  I am so grateful for her heart and her love for the Lord, and so honored that she would allow me to make this offer to you…any Compassion child who is sponsored from my blog on Audrey’s Birthday will have a handmade lamb (with scripture) sent to their sponsored child in honor of my sweet girl.

I know that this is a hard time financially in general, so please don’t feel any pressure. Seek the Holy Spirit and if you feel that this is something you would like to do, just make sure and email me your child’s information (angelac519@gmail.com) so that we can make sure to get them their gifts. Several of you have emailed me a page that must come up after you sponsor, so you can just forward that along.  
We have some things that we will be doing as a family tomorrow to celebrate Audrey’s life, and I ask for your prayers on this day.  I am not sure what to expect, and above all, I want the Lord to be lifted high. I know my baby is safe and sound, and as Abby said to me the other day, “She will probably have a really awesome party this year.”
I bet she’s right.
We miss you, sweet baby girl. 
You are so, so loved.