she sang her song loud {Amazing Abby}

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I was a fairly new and young mom with boys ages 1 and 3. Photography was beginning to play a significant role in my life and I had the margin to really pursue ways to challenge myself and grow in the craft. I signed up for a one day event with a handful of local photographers. Dejah Quinn organized the day – a day with several models for us to practice and build our porfolios. My hope was simply to learn something from all the talent surrounding me that day. I hoped to capture a few images I could be proud to share. What I didn’t expect was to leave that day forever changed in how I parent.

That day I met a brother and sister. They were both teenagers. Abby had a camera in her hand. Andrew a video camera. While I tried to snap pictures with my camera, I was so distracted by them. As teenagers they both were building successful businesses. They were far more mature and confident than most adults twice their age. They knew their gifts, their passions and they were boldly chasing their dreams. Their Christian faith and love for life were evident within minutes of meeting them. Not only were they incredibly talented siblings, it was obvious they were great friends. As a new mom I watched the way they treated each other and those in the group. With each other they were both respectful and loving, but they also had a lot of fun together. As a new mom, I wanted to learn all I could about how they were raised.

Abby & Andrew – Abby & her mom (recent pictures from Abby’s site)

abby

At dinner I sat next to them; I wanted to pick their brains. I asked them a million questions about how they grew up. What made it possible for them to be where they were – as teenagers? What were their parents like? A million questions. They shared with me how they (along with their two other brothers) were homeschooled and how their parents took advantage of that to help them specialize their education. They talked about how their parents always did such an intentional job of encouraging their unique gifts. They talked about traveling as a family and about all the experiences they shared together. They talked about having parents that enabled them to pursue their dreams even if it meant doing things in a way is different from mainstream American culture.

When they talked about their teenage years and their parents – their words were filled with love and appreciation. It was obvious they were a very close family. I told Abby I wished I could sit down with her mom. Thinking about my two little boys back home, I so wanted to ask her mom a million questions.

I left that day, came home to Chris and told him all about Abby and Andrew. Seeing two teenagers so confident in who they were, how God created them and what they wanted to do – well it changed my life. And I don’t say that lightly. I wanted that for my kids. I was challenged by how their parents really knew them, saw their unique gifts and gave them the tools and opportunities to grow into who they were created to be.

Since that day, Chris and I have tried so hard to see the unique gifts in our kids. We are constantly looking for those things, helping our kids see those gifts and trying our best to find ways to encourage them to grow in those unique areas. The way we parent and the way our kids are growing was hugely impacted by that day in 2007 when I met Abby and Andrew Smith.

I lost touch with Abby several years ago.

Yesterday, I randomly came across her picture online. Under it was a short caption that after a battle with terminal cancer, she went Home to Jesus on Saturday morning.

She was 24.

She found out she had cancer in 2012.

I sat in shock. It seems so impossible.

Naturally, I thought of her mom, her dad and her brothers.

I cannot begin to wrap my mind around what her family is feeling and facing. My heart aches for their loss.

I am inspired and encouraged by the grace and strength they show as they walk this unimaginable road.

Her brothers have created several videos that capture her story over the last two years. On Abby’s facebook page, they have given permission to share photos and videos – wanting Abby’s story to be told. I want to share this most recent video here today.

Amazing Abby – A Legacy of Hope from Andrew PC Smith // SMITH PIXELS on Vimeo.

You can read more about Abby on her facebook page.

Several months ago I read this quote by Henry David Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with a song still in them.” I’ve thought of that quote so many times over the last six months. How utterly sad it is. I don’t want to die with a song still in me. I did not know Abby well. We only met one day, but I am forever grateful for that one day. I am grateful her parents helped her find her song and I am grateful she sang it loud.

I look at my five kids and wonder about what the future holds for them. I hope I can help them find their song. I hope I can help them sing it…and like Abby I hope they sing it loud.

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  • Paige - It’s so amazing when God puts people in our lives at a very specific season that shapes us as a person. What a tremendous loss of an obviously wonderful life. Thank you for sharing her memory with us. And thank you for resetting my perspective this morning when I needed it so much. I praise God for His always perfect timing.

  • Becky - Amazing.

  • NellyKelly - Thank you.

  • Ashley - so beautiful, her story has amazed me and your words honored her so well

  • Sandi - How inspiring

  • Evelyn Ciskowski - Thank you for this wonderful tribute to an amazing young lady. What an inspirational way to start my day. I don’t usually get on the computer this early but I am glad I did today. Maybe I will be more aware of the messages God has for me today. One of God’s gifts to me is seeing Amanda and you as mothers. I am so proud of you both. I know God is guiding you. Your children are so blessed.

  • Amy - Beautiful. Thank you …

  • Kristin S - Ashley, you do.

  • colleen from alabama - Wept through the video. Challenged to allow every ounce of today to be held and experienced in the fullness of God’s moment by moment presence. Glory to HIM for her magnificent life and testimony.

  • Aun - WOW. That is such an amazing story. Not a dry eye here. In a lot of ways, I was right where Abby was. Cancer taking over your entire being, your entire life. It not only takes over your life, but, it takes over the lives of everyone around you. For me, God still lets me know I still have things to be done here. Sometimes, I’m not sure what that purpose is, but, everyday is a blessing. I also know,I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the prayers, and, the love of all my family and friends. It’s been 12 years since the first time hearing the “C” word. I am truly blessed.

  • Sarah P. - Thank you for this gift.

  • Lynn - Wow. Thank you for sharing this truly inspiring and touching story. Tears, everywhere.

    I always wonder what it is like to have a family as big and wonderful as yours, with parents who are, from the get go, inspired to help their children lead fulfilling, selfless lives full of gratitude and complete honor to God. I wonder how you can raise chickens and 5 kids who teach the chickens tricks and adopt a gorgeous special needs baby from China and still love your husband and have your oversplits, a trampoline, a great relationship with your parents/husband and a beautiful home, to boot.

    Just the other night, I was thinking how much I want to grow up to be like you as a mom (even though my career will keep me from raising chickens, getting up to 5 kids, etc. lol). My parents were wonderful, we did travel and my brothers and I were homeschooled for the last 6 years. It is inspiring to know that you, too, were inspired, let alone as a tribute to such a wonderful young lady.

    In tragedy we often find triumph. Praying for their family, as well. Although I am sure their loss was great, they WILL be reunited again, and their strength and loving support within each other will weather them through this better than most families could ever cope. Many people lose loved ones every day without a shoulder to cry on or anyone to turn to. Thank God there are still families who defy the norm and are capable of shining a light into the world around them! 🙂

  • Betsy - I had followed Abby’s stunning photography years ago, and wondered where she went… I had no idea she had been going through this. Such a heavy heart today. Prayers for so many. Thanks for sharing this, Ashley.

  • stephany - Ashley, thank you for sharing this. A reminder to live life intentionally with those we love.

  • Chelsea - I, too, saw her story shared through the video yesterday on Facebook. Although I do not believe in God, I was so encouraged by her story to live every day with joy. What a beautiful legacy to leave behind.

  • Taylor - Wow, that is so incredible and inspiring. It’s strange how someone can touch your life and then in an unexpected instant, be gone. How heartbreaking, but wonderful at the same time.

    xoxo
    Taylor

    http://www.welcomehometaylor.com

  • cynthia - UTTERLY beautiful words that have my eyes swelled in tears. You’re definitely on that path. I hope for same of my children.

    Thanks for sharing such a soulful story!

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - I came across Abby’s IG feed a while back. I didn’t realize that she had gone home with Jesus. My heart is so sad for her family. I know they are rejoicing that her pain is gone and that she is in her forever home. But what a sad loss. And I think about that mama. Knowing that she is so thankful that she spent everyday, all day with her sweet girl. What a blessing. Thank you for sharing Ashley. Praying that they will be wrapped up in the comforting arms of our savior today.

  • Tiffany - Thank you to you and her family for sharing this. What an inspiration for us to live up to. It’s amazing to me to see pieces of Jesus in people, and then try to imagine what He must be like.

  • Emily - I wonder if Abby knows how far her ripples have spread – she inspired you and you inspire us. What a lovely woman. Thank you for sharing.

  • Nicole C - I don’t think I’ve ever had so many tears for someone I didn’t know. What a beautiful soul. It’s hard to imagine another angel leaving but I know of a friend who was graced with the birth of a little girl the same day.

    Thank you for sharing her story

  • Amanda - Ah, this brought me to tears. I’ve known Abigail since about 2007 and she was a blessing to everyone she knew. Our whole little town is in mourning, but man that girl left a legacy.

    (Oddly enough, I met Abigail before I ever got into photography when she asked me to model for a bunch of photographers [Dejah included] who were getting together in Bricktown. I guess it’s possible you were one of those photographers! Small world.)

  • Sharon - That was absolutely beautiful.
    I wept through the entire video.
    That last verse is my current prayer.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Erica - Thank you for sharing Abby’s story. What a beautiful impact she is having. She has touched my heart.

  • Alicia Millis - Beautiful video, beautiful life lost. Thank you for sharing her story here. My heart breaks for her family. I am glad she was able to touch you and your family in such a special way…wow what a legacy she has left behind, in so many hearts and families. Sending prayers to your family and hers.

  • Julie - So beautiful. I’m a new homeschooling Mom, but being able to help my son find his passions and pursue them is one reason why I wanted to homeschool him. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Kelly - how do you help kids find their passion if you don’t even know yours? I mean, I’m a stay at home mom and I love it and you can say it’s my passion. But I don’t have anything else. No career. No side business. I’m not good enough at anything else to call it a passion. So I send my kids to school because I don’t feel like I have enough to offer them.

  • AshleyAnn - Kelly – Oh girl, I hear you in that struggle. It is hard sometimes to see our own passions and gift mix when we are up to our eyes in laundry and keeping a house running. I am confident you have far more to offer than you probably see in yourself. Most of us do. Think about the things that make you feel alive…maybe it is cooking, hosting, gardening, running, animals, parenting, grammar…could be anything. I bet your girls could tell you the ways you shine and when you are the happiest! You may not see yourself as ‘good enough’ at it, but I bet other people see it in you. I don’t have all the answers, I am still trying to figure it out myself. It is a work in progress in our home. I do feel like I am more attentive to things than I once was. For instance we went to the zoo last week. As we walked around I had one son that was reciting all kinds of animals facts. He ran to each exhibit. He read all the information cards about each animal. He was engulfed in learning about the animals. His older brother, on the other hand, basically didn’t even notice the animals. At each exhibit he studied the materials used for building. He questioned the strength and safety. He asked about why certain rocks were real and why others were fake. His mind works like an engineer while his little brother’s mind works in a totally different way. We were all at the same place, but their experiences were very different. I’m still learning and figuring out what to do with that…how to encourage and celebrate those differences and what that all means. I just know I am trying to be more aware and attentive to see the things in them that are unique to them and I want to help them continue to grow in those areas that are uniquely them.

  • amber - Wow. Thank you. What an amazing girl. What an awesome God.

  • Mary - As a mother of 5 ages 26 to 16. I have to say enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy and enjoy each of them. They grow up faster that you can imagine. Thanks for you kind words about Abby – I was near her only one day as well – although I know her family. I am so happy to know I will see her again!

  • Betty Smith - Thank you so much for sharing this, Ashley. We are humbled and awed at the impact our daughter, Abby, had (and continues to have) on so many. We appreciate everyone’s prayers and are experiencing God’s peace and comfort greatly. We are grieving, but not as those who have no hope.

    Our goal when we had children was to BE A FAMILY! To work as a family, to minister as a family, to travel as a family, to learn as a family. (I think you get the point.) When our family was awarded the Dr. Beasley award last summer for our involvement in local politics, it was the first time any FAMILY had received the award. It was usually an individual award. But they recognized we were a force to be reckoned with because we were a family. If anyone in our family needed help, everyone was there for them. We were all for one and one for all. So my homeschooled children were best friends. And Abby’s brothers took her to Ireland a year ago. We took our last family trip (to Ukraine) in October and Abby went into the hospital immediately on our return. (Oh, and we visited Adam as a family when he was teaching in China in 2003.) As a family, we are feeling a big hole with Abby gone. But God is bringing some new little ones (by adoption) into our family.

    About discovering your children’s passions—what is it that they do when they are on their own and you aren’t telling them what they have to do? We started seeing clues when the kids were 8 to 10 years old. Then we helped them learn what they needed to do to be successful with those interests. If we didn’t have the skills, we tried to help them connect to people who did. We wanted each of them to have a life worth living and work worth doing. And they have. (Well, except for the 3 new little ones.)

    But the most important thing I think is to remember that children’s values are caught and not taught. We wanted our children to follow us as we followed Christ. So we lived a life that we wanted them to emulate and included them in it—from work, to play, to ministry, etc. We’re definitely not perfect. We’re not extraordinary. We just want to be faithful followers of Jesus and to love God and love our neighbors.

  • Jody - What a beautiful girl! Prayers go to her & her family. She’s touched so many.

    And thank you for the reminder to try to notice a little more each day – it’s so easy to get caught up in the craziness of day to day with kiddos. I love what you write about recognizing each child’s unique gifts! I needed that reminder!

  • Elece Hollis - Very nicely written, Ashley. It is good that you noticed this family and learned from them. Betty says they are not exceptional but they are!

  • Elece Hollis - Love your title She sang her Song Loud.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh Ashley, you not only help your children sing. You teach us all to sing. I sing more loudly and I love better because I know you. I know my Jesus and I see him shining so brightly in YOU.

  • RichnLuv - Thank you for sharing Abby’s story. Your blog is just as inspiring as well. It was meant for you to meet Abigail, an obedient child of God, who seemed to willingly serve the Lord as we all should aspire to do. Her story touched my heart. Thanks again for allowing God to use you and your blog as He sees fit.

  • Mish - So raw and so beautiful.

  • remaliah - wow, what a beautiful legacy Abby has left…though it’s terribly sad to hear of her death. She’s now inspired me as a parent, through you. Thank you for sharing her with us 🙂

  • Kammie Bryant - Wow! I just really boo-hooed watching that video. I wondered many times throughout the video if I could be that brave if faced with the same circumstances as Abby. What a testimony she leaves behind. Thank you so much for sharing her story. Isn’t it crazy how people we don’t even know can touch our hearts so deeply? Thank you for always being an inspiration to so many through your blog. P.S. Firecracker’s boots are fab! Where did you find them?

  • Eva - Thanks so much for sharing Abby’s story. It’s one everyone should know. She has touched the lives of so many people. What a truly amazing young woman with an incredible family.

  • Sarah - Thanks for posting this. I never met Abby, but my husband and I count Andrew (and her other brothers Amos and Adam) good friends. They really are amazing people and I wish I could have gotten to know Abby.

  • AshleyAnn - Amanda – that was the group!!

  • Karli - What an incredible story. Abby has been an inspiration to me. I love the part where she talks about the peace she felt. That’s an amazing gift to have been given.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Ruth@GraceLaced - This makes we want to love Jesus more. Thanks for sharing, friend.

  • Diana - That was not at all the ending I was expecting to this story but what a beautiful example she was in her short life. It’s so sad that she died so young but it sounds like she lived the life she did have very well.

  • erika - I wanted to thank you for sharing your blog with the world. You inspire me so much, I admire and I thank God for you and your family.

  • Tammy - Absolutely beautiful words Ashley and an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing!