On October 19, 2016, Jon and Michelle Schmidt discovered that their daughter was missing. After a three-week search, her body was discovered in Columbia River Gorge National Forest in Oregon. In this excerpt from her new book, Carried, Michelle shares the profound words Annie left behind.
I think the most important thing I've learned through losing Annie is how I have been carried by the love of our Savior Jesus Christ, and because of this I've learned of our ever-present need to be filled with greater love for one another.
This was the spiritual gift that Annie possessed. . . . She would seek out those with whom she could spend a weekend night, always on the lookout for the lonely or downtrodden. She envisioned that her actions of befriending the friendless would catch on and spread, so that pretty soon everyone would accept and love and be friends with everyone else. . . . When Annie graduated [from high school, her twin brothers], Jonny and Chris, were just entering high school. She wrote them a long letter of advice that I later titled "Annie's Manifesto." She wrote:
Dear Jonny and Chris,
. . . If you want to truly be remembered for having a lasting influence and effect on your school and community, strive to always be motivated by love. Desire to serve because you care about your eternal brothers and sisters all around you (and not to mention potential eternal best friends). The best kind of leader is motivated by charity, the pure love of Christ. And something I know to be true is that charity never faileth!
In other words: if you sit by lonely people at lunch because you care about them, you will be happy. If you invite people who are different, the same, insecure, mediocre, stand out, or blend in, to join your friend circle (in class, at events, etc.), and if they can feel that care and charity from you, and see the effect of them grasping the fact that you are doing this, not for attention or to be popular or to be good or whatever, but for them, you will be happy.
If you ask a girl on a date who may not be the most popular or pretty, but who maybe had wise and inspiring comment in seminary, and you want her to know that she is of great worth, and that you admire and encourage her strenuous efforts to do what is right, seeing and feeling the appreciation in her eyes and from her heart, will make you happy.
Take even just one song during each school dance to dance with someone who might be on the outskirts, and truly dance with them, get them to open up, do it for them. (Not to show them your best dance moves.) Have them show you their best moves. Compliment them. Build them up. If they are shy or nervous to start to dance then say, "Let's do it together!" They will feel cared for, special, important, and maybe even cool. You will see those emotions in their eyes and feel it from their heart, and you will feel happy.
Annie Schmidt, photo by Tessa Barton
So, here's the thing, I could go on and on. But it would be so cool if you guys could take the idea of leading with charity and just make it your own! Keep the Spirit with you, and do any and every random thing He prompts you to do. And I promise that you will make a mark for good, not only in the heart of your school but upon each and every human heart you take even just five minutes to care for and to encounter every day. I promise that this mark you make will be lasting.
lead image courtesy of the Schmidt family
On October 19, 2016, Michelle Schmidt's plane landed in Oregon, where she was meeting her daughter, Annie, for a camping trip. But Annie didn't show up at the airport to pick up her mother as planned.
Thus began a season of searching and coming up short, of miracles and frustrations, of love poured out and faith tested, until Annie's body was finally discovered more than three weeks later in the Columbia River Gorge, where she had fallen while hiking.
As Annie's mother opens her heart to tell her story, her husband's story (Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guys), and Annie's story, she writes: "It is my hope that my journey of being tutored by God to trust Him more—not only through the loss of Annie but through some of my most vulnerable and personal past experiences—will be the means of bringing strength and hope to anyone suffering at this time."
When the unthinkable happened, Michelle Schmidt made a choice: to trust in God. This remarkable book will give readers the courage and inspiration to make that same choice.