To anyone that feels like it’s not worth it to go on…

Let me start this post by saying, I am not suicidal…I have never been suicidal. I do, however, know what is feels like to want to die. Which is entirely different.

Holding my child after she was gone…I wanted to go too….to have a nurse pump me full or morphine and just drift away with her. Seeing her in a casket…I wanted to be in it with her…holding her forever. Going to her grave…I’ve wanted to be in Heaven with her….to just die right there and dissolve into the ground.

I get it.

Trust me I get what it’s like to not know how to keep living your life and to just want it all to be over. The brokenness of this world and the people in it. I get what it feels like to be on your couch for days on end and even the smallest tasks like answering your phone or getting food feel like exhausting work.

Death. Pain. Illness. Grief. Loss. Suffering. Unfairness. Evil. Greed. Hate. Rage.

If you let them, they’ll all take over your brain and your heart. You want it to end and to be somewhere that those things don’t exist.

I’ve seen it manifest in my personal life through family. A great aunt who lost a daughter at 2weeks old and couldn’t recover from it so she decided to end it. A great uncle who couldn’t cope with all the brokenness and strain this world offered so he left it all behind. A kind hearted man who couldn’t face more chemo for the cancer eating his body away so he took it into his own hands. Each with their own struggle that I can’t and won’t judge…they did what they did and it’s between them and the Lord.

Even closer I’ve walked with a sister that has struggled with mental health for most of her life and who constantly is aware of her depression and suicidal tendencies. Her hormones tell her she’s crazy and inadequate. Her brain and memory fail her constantly. She feels things in a big way and they overtake her often.

But she keeps swimming.

We all keep swimming.

We long to be away from this world where all the bad seems to rule. Leaving it on our own terms seems to be so much easier.

You see, for me, that’s not the answer, friends.

For me, its medication that helps slow things down. It’s counseling to express my grief and pain in a safe space with someone I trust that will tell me hard things but who also will protect me if she sees me going down a destructive path. It’s a marriage where we are honest with each other about how we feel and what we need…even when it’s hard. It’s exercise and yoga to get my blood pumping and productivity flowing. It’s outlets like doodling, writing, reading, and whatever feels fun instead of oppressive. It’s choosing to work in an environment that is flexible even if it’s less money because it’s good for me right now. It’s a bible study group that I can be open with on good and bad days. It’s a Life Group that constantly lifts us, loves us, and supports us. It’s a church family that truly is family. It’s friendships that are honest and real. It’s prayer-lots and lots of prayer for help and grace and wisdom.

Does my approach to my personal grief and mental health apply to everyone?

Is the the best answer?

Am I the greatest of all?

Absolutely not.

I’m simply saying that, if you’re in that place where it feels like ending your life is your only option…it doesn’t have to be.

You have people that love you.

You have a BIG GOD that loves you in BIG WAYS if you’d open yourself to Him.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

**Disclaimer-these are my opinions, only and my personal experiences and beliefs. I would never presume to judge others for how they deal with the pain in their lives. We all live uniquely on this planet the best way we can. And those who have felt no other way out than suicide…that decision was a result of brokenness and mental Illness and it’s between them and God. My prayer is that the Lord would fill hearts that see a need to end their lives and that He would change things for them and show them ending it isn’t the only option And that He’ll come soon and heal us all!

#SophieTheBrave #DomoreforSoph #GodisBigger #OneDayCloser #childhoodcancerawareness #cancermom #lymphomasucks #childloss #lossmom #grief #suicideprevention #mentalhealth #1in4

A year of lessons

I’ve been really thankful lately.

We made it through year one mostly in one piece…at least as ‘whole’ as we can be without Sophie.

Sophie.

I’m just so thankful for her.

Her life.

Our perfect time together as a family in our little pink house. Watching her with her daddy. Her laugh. Her brown eyes. Her sass and independence. Her excitement for literally everything. Even her illness because in that she taught me so much about myself, about what really matters…and about what it means to be brave.

Truly, unflinchingly Brave.

The past year has taught me a lot about myself in the sense that I’d never have ever painted myself as someone who could live after losing a child. My mom has always said ‘If anything ever happened to you kids they’ll just need to bury me next to you.’ And ever since I got pregnant with our first and then with Sophie I’ve felt the same way.

But then it happened. My child actually died. And I couldn’t just stop living. I couldn’t get in the ground with her. Life moves forward even when yours is standing still.

But how?

The last year of loss and the 7 months before that of cancer have taught me that it’s not possible without two things-faith and your people.

We’ve been held up and supported in overwhelming ways by so many different groups of our people.

Our family. Church family. Amazing friends who are family. Coworkers. Nurses. The Childhood Cancer community. Strangers. Online communities. Organizations. Businesses. Churches. Towns. Other loss parents.

The list is long and absolutely incredible. People matter in good times but especially the ones that show up and stay around for the bad stuff. That’s what love in action looks like. Just showing up and not forgetting.

God has put such amazing people in our lives and we can only pray that over time we can be there for them as they’ve been here for us. Some days I’m just overwhelmed at how much He has provided over the last 20 months. While Sophie wasn’t healed here on earth, God has been big enough to sustain and hold us through every step. The examples of grace and provision I could list are just mind blowing…maybe one day I’ll just post a list of it all. He has been good to us even in the bad. He was so good to give us Sophie for the time we had her and He continues to be good to us in her absence and in allowing us to share her story.

So yeah, the last year has been unimaginable and hard. But it’s also been powerful. There were weddings that gave us a new sister and brother. We had birthdays full of incredible love. So many Amazing trips and opportunities to share Sophie with thousands. We’ve grown as individuals and as a couple. Our marriage is in a place that can be hard but it’s also the greatest joy in my life.

And I’m thankful.

When God’s provision doesn’t feel good…

If someone asked you what provision means to you, what would you say?

I feel like most of us would say being financially stable, our family’s health, new homes, overall happiness, etc. are all examples of how we are provided for.

Nothing is wrong with wanting these things and seeing them as good provision from the Lord.

But, what if provision doesn’t come if n the way you expect? It’s challenging for us to see provision when it’s different than what we think it should be.

In Scripture, ‘provide’ can be translated to ‘to see’….So in Genesis 22 when Abraham names the mountain where he’s spared from sacrificing Isaac “The Lord Will Provide”…we can also say “The Lord Will See.”

He sees us. He always sees…therefore, He always provides. And His constant awareness of us means His constant provision.

Faith means knowing that every act of provision in my life is for MY good and for HIS glory. Even if it doesn’t look good to my worldly eyes.

Am I saying that Sophie’s illness and death are good? Absolutely not. I’m saying that I believe the Word of God is all true at all times. And because I believe that, I believe that He ONLY acts for my good. Sophie’s death was not good but, I believe He is and will continue to use her for my good and His glory. I believe that His plan for her life, my life, and the lives of those she has affected is so much bigger and more complex than my brain will ever be able to understand while I’m here. I believe that I can do ALL things through Him. I believe that He sent His Son to die so that I could be reunited with Him and with Sophie in eternity. And I also believe the hard stuff. I believe that in this world there will be trials. I believe that suffering perfects my faith. I believe the world is broken and that death, pain, and grief are part of being here. I believe it all. Does that make sense?

He’s providing all of it. The grace to get through the suffering. The whispers through His word that fortify our souls and encourage us. The joy that comes from the promises of redemption and victory over death, grief, and tears.

Yes, provision of the things we need to survive here on earth, is important but, the real provision… the provision for our souls…the fact that He sees us…that’s where we get our confidence to keep going.

He sees you. He’s with you. He will provide. Always.

Share with someone that might need a reminder that in the twists and turns of their life…they are seen.

*Song lyrics from Todd Wright Band

https://www.praisecharts.com/songs/details/71499/cant-see-sheet-music/

#SophietheBrave #DoMoreForSoph #GodisBigger #OneDayCloser #childhoodcancerawareness #lymphomasucks #cancermom #lossmom #childloss

The day time stood still…

I remember every second of December 22nd last year. There are a lot of the details of Sophie’s Lymphoma battle that are fuzzy but this day…this one is burned into my memory like a brand. The second worst day of my life.

On the 20th we had been given the ‘all clear’ to start the numerous tests needed to get Sophie’s stem cell transplant process started. We had a full body CT Scan and GI Tract ultrasound on the 21st. Then the BIG test day was the 22nd.

Aunt Jacy spent the night with Sophie and Jonathan and I got back to Cook Children’s in Ft Worth early that morning. We walked in to Sophie screaming and Jacy was very frustrated. The team at Cooks had come in to start an IV on Soph for her sedation…even though her chest port was accessed. Which is annoying but the port in an infection risk so I get them not wanting to go there. But Jacy had told them that Sophie was a very hard stick…starting IVs had been hell for us for almost 8 months…and that they needed to call the IV team because they have this magical red light that finds a good vein every time. They didn’t listen to her and had already tried to stick Sophie on one hand and in both feet (even though Jacy told them no one, in 8 months had ever gotten a foot line to go in).

Now, disclaimer-Cooks is AMAZING and the staff was amazing….they just didn’t know Jacy or Sophie because we’d only been there for 5 weeks. And they apologized for not listening. It was just very hectic to walk in on an already stressful day to Soph already screaming.

But, we got the IV in finally and calmed her down.

Transport came and took us downstairs to get started. Cook’s didn’t have a PET Scanner so we were escorted across the sky bridge to the next door Methodist Hospital.

It was raining.

A long morning of waiting, sedation, waiting, PET scan, waiting, spinal tap, waiting, bone marrow aspiration, waiting, hearing test, waiting, and heart echo then we were back in our room with a very tired baby. And it kept raining.

My mom, Mammy was there by then to trade off with Jacy and we waited. Results usually took at least 24 hours and with it being 3 days until Christmas, we weren’t expecting any news. So when our nurse came in and said our doctor was coming at 3:00 to conference we were concerned. But at the same time…this was our first day of testing at a new hospital, with new doctors, and stem cell protocol is a big deal so I thought ‘maybe they rush things for stem cell’. It was hope in my heart trying to keep out the panic.

You see, we suspected it was back but we hadn’t said it out loud…not even to each other. We rationalized the bed soaking night sweats with the fact that her tiny body was so weak and exerting her for 3 hours a day in therapy was causing it. We knew her…we knew a spike in her counts was a bad sign but her doctor was positive…and again new hospital-stem Cell…they knew what they were doing. But we knew her. We also knew the chances of it coming back were high. We knew we were fighting an uphill battle…the Everest of hills.

Then.

3:00. Time stopped.

I knew the second he walked in that it was back. His face said it all. He had been crying. Out doctor, the pediatric stem cell expert…one of the best in the nation…had been crying before coming into our room to tell us….it was back….it had spread….it was in her entire chest cavity, her bone marrow, her spinal fluid, and was now invading the right side of her heart. And we were done. She was done. Her poor little body wasn’t strong enough for the kind of chemo that would attempt to save her life. If we had tried that, she likely would’ve lost what little brain function she had left…she would’ve suffering more…and still would’ve died.

I was in bed with her and just fell on top of her. Jonathan leaned against the sink counter in shock. My mom had to sit back onto the couch.

She was going to die.

How long? Was our next question.

You know most people hear ‘3-6 months’ or ‘1-2 months’ and I don’t know what i was expecting…because nothing obviously was an expectation for this moment. But when he said…days, maybe hours. I just wasn’t expecting that. The chemo we were giving her was acting like a colander, stopping some cancer but letting some through. So no one knew how long it would take to take over once we took that chemo away.

A lot happened after that. Shocked phone calls to get the word out. Questions of what do we do now? Sobbing on the floor of the chapel. Sobbing in the shower. Walking aimlessly in a fog. Everything was in slow motion. Having the ‘funeral’ conversation.

Because no one ever sits with their spouse and says ‘hey babe, what would our child’s funeral look like? What funeral home should we use? Caskets, Flowers….’ imagine that conversation….then multiply it times 500 and you might get it.

But we had to have that conversation. While the shock was fresh… before it set in. I wanted that out of the way. I didn’t want to be worrying about planning things after. I just wanted to be her mom.

And that’s what I did.

The next day, two days before Christmas we were moved back to Children’s Health in Dallas. Our families helped us pack the room and Ronald McDonald and we put our baby in her car seat for the last time and drove her. I sat in the back next to the car seat….just as I’d done hundreds of times before….but this would be the last.

The fact that that was able to happen at all, let alone so quickly, was a miracle from God.

Even though Cook’s was great…Children’s was home. They knew and loved and cared for her for 7 months. And I wanted them caring for her at the end. Because I was done being nurse and caregiver. I wanted to get in that bed and be mama. To read books, watch movies, sing songs, rub hands, kiss cheeks, and stare. Just stare at her while I could.

And I did. For 13 days. When time stood still.

Grace upon grace

It’s been quiet over here lately because I’ve just been a little blah. Staying busy has been really good for me over the last couple of weeks but I just haven’t had much to say in the writing department.

That’s not true, I have a lot to say but, I just haven’t been able to articulate a lot of it.

Grief and stress have changed so much about me. They’ve made me a bit more distracted and ‘scatterbrained’. I’ve always been the person that tackled my to do list everyday and found immense pleasure in marking things off. Now, I seem to keep adding to my list and I’ll tackle something then get distracted and start something else. And while I absolutely love the flexibility of my part time work, it’s been hard for me to figure out structuring my own schedule. I’ve never had to do that before. I’ve been on student then teacher schedule pretty much my whole life. So now, when I can’t seem to get things done I get frustrated and overwhelmed at my inability to finish projects that are on my heart and I end up being even more unproductive. And the list of topics and articles I want to write just keeps growing.

It’s like grief-induced Attention Deficit Disorder…Or that’s my self diagnosis.

But that’s where grace has come in such a big way. We’ve felt such profound grace since Sophie got sick and it carried us through her entire cancer battle. Then that grace multiplied to a level I’ve never experienced before in the last 13 days of her life. And getting through her death, the weeks after, and now almost one year of being without her….would just not have been or continue to be possible without it.

If you were fortunate enough to be in our hospital room during the last days or at Sophie’s service then you know what I’m talking about. It was just this physical feeling of a warm hug the second you stepped in. I wish I could bottle it and give it to those that need it.

But what’s so great about my God is that I don’t have to bottle it and give it to anyone. He offers it freely to anyone that needs it. Even if you don’t believe in Him…He’s still offering you grace…and you don’t have to do anything to earn it.

That’s a whole different conversation but, my point is…grace is what keeps me going. It’s not me that’s strong. It’s not me that makes up the words I write. It’s not me that has the strength to walk the halls of the hospital or comfort another grieving mom. It’s not me.

It’s Jesus and the grace that He pours into me and allows me to get through each day. It’s tangible and real in my life and when I have nothing to say or can’t seem to articulate the jigsaw puzzle that is my brain some days…I just ask for grace. Does that mean there aren’t days where i wake up swollen faced from crying into her stuffed giraffe that I sleep with? Or that I don’t feel crushed under the weight of her absence at some point every single day? No. But it does mean that I’m able to survive it. I’m able to have those moments…for as long as they last and then Grace picks me back up and helps me move through what’s next.

It’s not profound. It’s not some theological masterpiece of a prayer. It’s just grace.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” -Ephesians 2: 8-10

#Sophiethebrave #DomoreforSoph #Godisbigger #Onedaycloser

I Wish My House Was Messy.

My house is always clean. The laundry gets done quickly. The dishes are rarely stacked up in the sink. My counters are hardly ever sticky and nothing gets spilled. Everything gets put in its place and there is no clutter. My floor rarely needs sweeping and I never step on or trip over toys. My house is usually in perfect order . . . and it’s infuriating.

You see, my house used to be a wreck a lot of the time. We had diapers, wipes, blankets, books, applesauce pouches, Cheerios, toys, movies, and any other number of toddler paraphernalia strewn about the house. There were pink towels hung on the tub, sippy cups on the drying rack by the sink, random pacifiers hidden all over, and a trail of favorite toys leading to our daughter playing in the bathroom laundry hamper cabinet.

Now, there is none of that.

My daughter is gone.

Cancer took her from us three months before her third birthday.

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Where there once was sippy cups and tiny bowls, now there’s the coffee maker and a Rosemary plant I’m trying not to kill. The diaper bin is now full of her favorite things and put up in the closet with plastic bins of toys and clothes.The bathroom that once held her towels, bath toys, shampoos, soaps, and Tylenol now just has my stuff in it. I only have to worry about myself and my stuff each day. I no longer do extra laundry and dishes. There are no messes to sweep out from under a high chair and I only have to load my purse into the car. Diaper bags, snacks, car seats, extra clothes, strollers, and sunscreen aren’t on my radar anymore. In the evenings, I don’t end my night picking up the day’s mess and laying out what she needs for tomorrow. My grocery list is much shorter without extra milk, chicken nuggets, veggie pouches, diapers, yogurt, and Goldfish.

I’d give anything to have piles of laundry and dishes. I long to be late because I forgot snacks and had to change a diaper. I wish I didn’t get a full night’s sleep.

My house is always clean but, oh, how I wish it was messy.

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*Originally Published on Her View From Home*

Dear Military spouse on Veteran’s Day…

This post is not typical for me but, with it being Veteran’s Day, I wanted to share it anyways. I wrote this piece when a dear friend of mine’s husband deployed over the Summer.

*Originally Published on Her View From Home*

Dear military spouse,

I see you.

I see you counting down the days until he’s gone for basic training. I see you proudly by his side after he graduates. Sometimes I see you head to the courthouse for a quick wedding so you can stay by his side. I see you uproot your life and leave your family and friends to follow him to base after base, town after town, state after state, and sometimes, country after country. I see you making each new place a home as you join local military family groups, find activities for your kids, and get your new network of support set up.

I see you making as many memories as possible as you count down the days to his deployment. You take trips and go on dates and make sure he has everything he needs. You print pictures for him to have with him, leave love notes in his pockets and bags. You try as hard as you can to help your kids understand why Daddy has to leave and you hold them when they don’t get it. You give them all time together when you just want all of that time yourself. You buy “Daddy dolls” for the kids, get maps so you can track where he is, and make paper chains to count down the days until he’s home. Your Pinterest is full of deployment survival guides, military wife devotionals, care package ideas, and welcome home sign ideas.

I see you clutching onto his neck as you tell him goodbye not knowing if you’ll ever hug that neck again. I see you hold it together so he doesn’t have to see you cry. Then I see you hit your knees and sob as soon as he’s gone.

I see you trying to start your version of “new normal”. I see you set up play dates for the kids, trips to see family, and projects upon projects to keep you all occupied. I see you posting every article out there in support of our troops and veterans. I see you lifting boxes into the post office with overseas addresses. I see you posting his address and asking for encouraging letters and needed materials for him and his fellow soldiers. I see you frustrated because you’ve had yet another issue with military paperwork or healthcare. I see you being both Mom and Dad while trying to not let Dad’s role disappear while he’s gone.

You crash into your bed that feels too big and too cold, so some nights you end up gathering your kiddos in with you. You don’t sleep much, thinking about where he is and worrying you might miss a FaceTime or Skype call. You sit with the daily knowledge that the person you love most in the world is probably in danger or at least close to it.

I see you announcing the baby that will arrive before he gets home. I see you attending showers, decorating a nursery, and making birth plans without him here. You lean on your support system and do it without someone to share it with. You go into labor and try to get him on Skype to see his child come into the world. You do the newborn stage and so many others as a single parent.

I see you and your kids decked out in red, white, and blue. I see you waiting anxiously as you wait for his plane to land. I see your perfectly lettered welcome home sign. Your kids are bouncing up and down and the baby has a onesie saying “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet you!” I see you keep yourself from sprinting to him as he gets off the plane. I see you hold your restraint until he’s dismissed to leave. And then, I see you finally get your hug. You jump on him and wrap him up with your arms and legs. Your kids tackle him and the baby finally gets to meet Daddy. You are a family again and you get to start a “new normal” over again.

You stand behind your man as he fights for our freedom. You see the politics and social media opinions that hate what he does and what he represents all while knowing he could die doing it. He isn’t the only one sacrificing. You sacrifice. Your children sacrifice. Your families all sacrifice.

You are strong. You are brave. You are a military wife.

And you are seen.

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