NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Todd and Angie Smith welcomed their daughter Audrey Caroline into the world on April 7, 2008. Less than three hours after her birth, God welcomed her into heaven.
In “I Will Carry You,” released by B&H Publishing Group, Angie shares how she learned in the 18th week of her pregnancy that her daughter had conditions that would leave her unable to live.
Angie and her husband Todd, lead singer of the Dove Award-winning group Selah, were given the option to terminate the pregnancy. The Smiths decided to carry Audrey Caroline, their fourth daughter, as long as she had life.
“She was our daughter and we would fight for her,” Angie writes.
Angie recounts her family’s journey of loss and disappointment, while delicately weaving biblical perspective into the devastating situation.
“I was desperate for truth in the midst of the chaos,” she writes of receiving Audrey’s diagnosis. “I began to search for stories of healing in hopes of peace. One day in my quiet time, I read the story of Lazarus, and it felt like a sweet balm to my bitter hurt.”
Angie, who has a master’s degree in developmental psychology, also started writing a blog, “Bring the Rain,” to update friends and family on her journey.
The site exploded and thousands of readers began to connect with Angie’s story, many of whom had their own heartbreaking stories.
Time was limited with their unborn daughter, so Angie, Todd and their three daughters Ellie, Abby and Kate intentionally included Audrey in the most mundane parts of life.
“I told her about the way the washer spun our clothes around and took long, warm showers talking to her about her daddy and sisters,” Angie writes. “I rocked her, sang to her, and rubbed my belly when I felt her scooting around. She was usually the most active when I was lying in bed, and when I knew she was awake, I read Scripture to her and told her about the great King Jesus and the way He loved her.”
The Smiths also created special memories, like taking a trip to Disney World to see Cinderella’s castle.
Angie chronicled details of the trip on her blog and offered insight on how momentary distraction did not help her escape from all the sadness.
“In some ways I wish I could go back to the place where cotton candy and parades distracted me,” she writes. “In other ways I am relieved to be on this side of life, where I have come to terms (as much as I can) with the fact that in this life, on this Earth, I am going to hunger.”
Angie concluded that the hunger will not be satisfied.
“It cannot be,” she writes. “And when the wind blows through my soul and tempts me to despair over the lot I have been given, I cling to the truth that the Lord has something better for me. It won’t always be like this. You will know Him fully one day, and all the hurts that consume you in this moment will vanish and be forgotten. I know it sounds crazy. I guess it’s crazy to think that a God would love us so much that He would want to create a place [for us] to be with Him eternally, where we can revel in His perfection and rest in true peace.”
Audrey was born the morning of April 7. She was small. She was alive. Angie and Todd held out for a miracle, but God had other plans. Angie watched as the nurses examined Audrey and then all dropped their stethoscopes.
“And just like that, I knew,” Angie writes. “She wasn’t going to stay. All the months, all the dreams, all the hopes for a miracle. Gone.”
Todd brought Audrey to Angie and she prepared to say hello to her daughter.
“It was clear to me after a few soft words from my nurse that I would also need to prepare to say good-bye,” she writes.
The hours they had Audrey were joyful. There was no time for tears, she explained. Ellie, Abby and Kate met their sister, and they took family photos. They rejoiced in the new life.
And then she was gone.
“Right before our eyes, she passed from this world to the next, and all she had ever known was love,” Angie writes.
The following days were filled with overwhelming grief and sadness, yet Angie trusted God.
“The Lord I have placed my trust in tells me that I will see my child again, and while He stands beside me, He weeps,” she writes. “He doesn’t weep at the barren ground, nor does He mourn the browning branches. He cries because I can’t see what He can. And in the fluttering of the breeze, with my heart pressed to His I can hear Him whisper, ‘Spring will come, my love.'”
Since Audrey was born two years ago, the Smiths have, in fact, seen the dawn of spring.
Angie has been able to share her story with countless women and recently welcomed daughter Charlotte into the family. Charlotte was born on May 19, Angie’s birthday.
“I won’t say that I don’t still struggle with Audrey’s death or that my thoughts don’t ever drift into the land of ‘what if,’ but for the most part I am at peace with what the Lord has done,” Angie said. “It hasn’t been an easy road, and I know it will continue to challenge me for the rest of my days, but I am grateful that I can breathe again.”
B&H is the publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
‘JUNGLE SUNRISE’ CAPTURES MISSION POWER — When Jonathan Williams returned from a life-changing experience as a young missionary in Peru, he wanted to find a way to capture the power of self-discovery that a trip into the deep jungle can provide.
After graduation from college, Williams spent two years as an International Mission Board missionary in the jungles of Peru, traveling with an “Xtreme team” into remote villages along the Madre de Dios River, a tributary of the Amazon. Their assignment was to share the Gospel with members of the Amarakaeri tribe, an unreached people group that had never heard of Jesus.
Williams lived with the villagers, slept on the ground, caught their own food and told the story of the Bible to people who did not even have a written language. When the two years was over, four villages had groups of believers who were growing in their faith and taking the Gospel into even more remote areas.
Williams said his experiences in Peru’s jungles were marked by dramatic interventions of God. The most dramatic example was when he and his partner arrived at a village that seemed to be deserted, except for a few young men. As they talked to the men, other villagers entered the clearing, carrying bows and spears. The men had been hiding behind trees, ready to kill what they thought were bandits. When they heard Williams and his partner speaking the indigenous language and mentioning familiar names of people in nearby villages, they decided not to kill them.
“Had we gone to Boca Inimbari first, we probably would have been killed and never found,” Williams said. “God kept us from going there first in order to spare our lives so we could share Christ with that village and see 15 become new believers and a church planted. Amazing.”
Now Williams, who is completing his master’s degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and working as a church planter in Fort Worth, Texas, has published “Jungle Sunrise,” a fictional novel that draws on his experiences to show how time in the jungle can reveal what is really important in life.
The novel “skillfully transports the reader between two worlds in a captivating and suspenseful book,” said Jerry Rankin, recently retired president of the International Mission Board. “A subtle Christian testimony is effectively woven into the novel through intriguing personalities as they discover the ultimate meaning in life through trials and tragedy.”
For more information about the book, visit www.junglesunrise.com.
A ‘GUITAR HERO’ LEGEND — Like many Christian men, Michael Lawrence regrets his misspent youth. He squandered his time in high school and missed the opportunity for higher education. But the bivocational pastor of Heartland Family Church in Caseyville, Ill., still remembers how he dreamed of being a rock star — a wish fanned into flame today for many “Guitar Hero” game enthusiasts.
Lawrence leveraged the popularity of the video game — which reportedly has earned more than $2 billion since it was created in 2005 — to write a novel that explores the desire for fortune and fame, as well as the dark underworld of addiction and greed that often accompanies celebrity.
His novel, “Solomon’s Guitar,” focuses on a young man who asks God for just one thing and gets what he asked for. While the biblical Solomon asked God for wisdom, Solomon Sanchez asks God to make him the greatest guitar player of all time.
Lawrence drew on his youthful misadventures to create the Solomon Sanchez character — and on his 25 years of ministry experience to frame the lessons Sanchez learns the hard way. He also is creating a 13-session Bible study to accompany the novel.
For more information about the book, visit www.solomonsguitar.com.
BIBLICAL ADVICE FOR TEENS OFFERED — In “Becoming a Young Woman Who Pleases God: A Teen’s Guide to Discovering Her Biblical Potential,” author Pat Ennis uses a biblical approach in giving practical advice for today’s young women.
“I wrote Becoming a Young Woman Who Pleases God because of the number of requests that I received from readers of the adult version, ‘Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God,’ for resources for teens to guide them before they make significant life mistakes,” Ennis said. “Since the content of the book will actually assist women of all ages in knowing God’s special love for them, the lives of moms and ministry leaders who use the book with their teens will also be enriched.”
The book, from New Hope Publishers of WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union), includes advice on nutrition, clothing, finances, hospitality, beauty, servanthood, decision-making and heart attitudes. It is written from the perspective of a contemporary high school senior in the form of a fictional journal with an emphasis on pleasing God rather than the culture or peers. The book also highlights character development.
Ennis is a family and consumer science professor who lives in Southern California.
PRAYER STUDY IS HER ‘LIFE’S WORK’ — New Hope Publishers has released a revised version of Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s “Live a Praying Life: Open Your Life to God’s Power and Provision.”
“I’m thrilled to be releasing this updated anniversary edition of Live a Praying Life,” Dean said. “This is my life’s work. It is the culmination of my most passionate pursuit. It is in my nature to ask every question, challenge every assertion, follow every thread to its end. Over decades, I have wrestled with these truths, road tested them, absorbed them, questioned them, affirmed them.”
Based on Dean’s extensive biblical study and research, personal depth of experience and more than 30 years of prayer and ministry, the expanded 13-week study tackles complex theological questions such as:
— If God is sovereign, why pray?
— If prayer is not a way to change God’s mind, what is it?
— What does it mean to pray with authority?
— What forms does prayer take?
“Live a Praying Life has transformed the prayer life of thousands of believers over the last 10 years,” Andrea Mullins, publisher for New Hope Publishers of WMU, said. “We recognized the impact of Jennifer’s message and have partnered with her to introduce Live a Praying Life to a new generation of Bible students and pray-ers. Believers still hunger to engage in lives that are defined by prayer and an intimate relationship with God.”
Also available are a DVD leader kit and a journal.
Dean is executive director of the Praying Life Foundation and an author and speaker. Her husband Wayne died in 2005 after 26 years of marriage, and she lives in Marion, Ky.
NEW BOOK ON PREACHING FROM B&H — “The church today is anemic spiritually for many reasons, but one of the major reasons has to be the loss of biblical content in so much of contemporary preaching,” David Allen, dean of the school of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, states in the Amazon listing for a new book, “Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon.”
“Pop psychology substitutes for the Word of God … in the headlong rush to be relevant,” Allen states. “People magazine and popular television shows have replaced Scripture as sermonic resources.”
Allen is one of three editors of the B&H Academic release from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, along with Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, and Ned L. Mathews, professor emeritus of pastoral ministries at Southeastern.
Among fellow Southern Baptists writing chapters for the book were Paige Patterson, Jerry Vines, Hershael York and Jim Shaddix.
Allen, in an interview posted at Southwestern Seminary’s website, answers an array of questions, including: “Why another book on preaching?”
“I think this book fills a niche that is not quite out there in two or three senses,” Allen states. “First of all, this is a book that calls expository preaching back to its foundation and back to what genuine exposition is all about. Number two, this book covers the gamut of the history of great expositors of preaching, covers the spiritual life of the preacher, and also covers aspects of the actual methodology of how to do exposition, how to do text-driven preaching, followed by the practicality of how to deliver text-driven sermons and so forth…. There are many good books on preaching. They vary in emphases, but this is a book that really zeros in on the vitality of text-driven preaching, and all of our contributors, regardless of the subject matter of their chapter, they are all committed to text-driven preaching.”
The full interview, along with video clips from Allen’s comments on the book, can be accessed at www.swbts.edu/campusnews/story.cfm?id=B58A8EE6-15C5-E47C-F9C54B7DAB369615.
AUTHOR RETURNS TO ‘MAYBERRY’ — In conjunction with the 50-year mark since the debut of “The Andy Griffith Show,” author Joey Fann will be part of the 21st annual Mayberry Days, Sept. 24-25, in Mount Airy, N.C., at a booth carrying the same title as his book, “The Way Back to Mayberry: Lessons from a Simpler Time,” a 2001 release from B&H Publishers of LifeWay Christian Resources.
“Everything I know about life, I learned from The Andy Griffith Show,” Fann, a software engineer in Huntsville, Ala., likes to say.
In his senior year of college, Fann and a cousin spent many hours watching episodes of the show on videotape. “It slowly occurred to me that no matter how many times I saw a specific episode, I never got tired of watching because they just got better and better. From that point forward, I was hooked.”
In 1998, Fann began leading a class using clips from the show’s 249 episodes at Twickenham Church of Christ in Huntsville. Next came his book, with 30 chapters that begin with a Scripture verse corresponding to the values and ideals from one of the show’s episodes.
Fann’s websites are www.barneyfife.com and www.thewaybacktomayberry.com.
CHAPMAN WRITES ‘THINGS I WISH I HAD KNOWN’ — Gary Chapman, author of the bestseller “The Five Love Languages,” has released a new book titled “Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married,” a pre- and post-nuptial guide.
“Who we marry shapes, defines and aims our lives more surely than almost anything else,” Chapman, senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., said. “Yet nearly 4 million people a year — 2 million marriages — continue to tie the knot with few or no steps to make sure it holds.”
Amid a marriage breakup rate that all but matches the marriage rate, Chapman’s book offers counsel to couples drawn from Chapman’s professional insights and personal confessions from 35 years as pastor, family counselor and perpetual student-husband, as well as ideas gleaned from hundreds of couples and marital challenges common to almost all newlyweds. Each chapter has questions that can be discussed by dating, engaged or married couples.
“A relationship is a road you pave, not a highway you merge onto on autopilot,” Chapman said.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff from reports by Kelly Shrout and Haverly Robbe of LifeWay Christian Resources, Ashley Stephens of New Hope Publishers/Woman’s Missionary Union, Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the staff of Lovell-Fairchild Communications.