Sophie the Brave Day

Monday, March 19th is Sophie’s 3rd birthday. We want to celebrate her memory by affecting as many people as we can in a positive way! We invite anyone and everyone to #DoMoreForSoph on her birthday! You can go BIG or small, spend a bunch of money, or give away free smiles! Whatever you can do to make someone’s day better because Sophie made everyday she was alive better just by being herself.

Kindness is everywhere around the holidays but, falls off after a bit. So many of the organizations and places that are packed with volunteers and donations from October to January are empty and lonely by March.

Some ideas of examples:

-Collect items to donate to hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters, etc.

-Pay for someone’s meal in line behind you

-Take water and snacks to people working outside in construction crews, lawn services, etc.

-Send someone flowers or an encouraging note

-Take your kids on a special date

-Do someone nice for your spouse or household that you wouldn’t normally do

– Find a local volunteer opportunity

-Donate school supplies to your kid’s teachers

-Take a meal to someone that might be struggling

-Let someone know you’re praying for them

-Sign up for monthly donations to a worthwhile organization OR make a one time donation.

Some good organizations to look into are Gold Network of East Texas, St. Baldrick’s, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Samaritan’s Purse, Layla’s Legacy, Sadie Keller Foundation, YoungLife, Refuge of Light

-Sponsor a needy child through Compassion

-Make cards for hospitals, police stations, nursing homes, etc.

-Send snacks to nurses stations at the hospital or doctor’s offices

-start collecting items for Operation Christmas Child in December

Feel free to share any ideas you have in the comments and PLEASE share how you #DoMoreForSoph on her birthday and any day between now and then!

We, as Sophie’s family will be celebrating her by taking a load of items to Children’s! We will have things for the parents of inpatient kids as well as supplies for Child Life to give to kiddos needing encouragement! Although this day will be so hard without her here with us, it brings me such JOY to know that she will be remembered and celebrated all over!

We miss her so dearly but, find comfort in the huge support we have found throughout her journey. Thank you for keeping the memory of our brave Sophie alive by sharing her story and bringing more JOY and KINDNESS to the world in her name!

I have created a Sophie the Brave Day Event on our Facebook page and I will be sharing different ideas for acts of kindness each day leading up to Sophie’s Day. Feel free to join that event and share it with others! Sophie deserves the world celebrating her!

A heart that is Broken, yet full

Last week, I wrote about visiting our four sweet friends that were all inpatient at Children’s. We used that as an opportunity to visit the hospital together for the first time since Sophie died. (It’s still SO weird to write that word.) I have an update on two of our friends and they are VASTLY different updates. One of them is full of joy and celebration and the other is buried in grief and loss. These two stories, along with my own current story, and a pretty difficult bible study week on suffering have made for a very hard yet, thought provoking week for me.

On Sunday, February 18th, our friend Kaylynn took her last breath in her mother’s arms. She has been terminal since October but, she’s been very stable recently so her sudden passing was a shock to her family. My heart shattered when my sweet friend text me that she was gone. I wanted to jump through the phone and grab her and hold her tight. I also was struck with very weird emotions. I was obviously just crushed that my friend has to feel what I feel. That she has to have the image of holding her child as she died and all of the horrible things that the hours afterward contain. Those are memories that NO ONE should have to endure. At the same time though, I was slightly and very selfishly relieved because now, I’m not ‘alone’. That’s not something that I’m proud of thinking….obviously I would NEVER wish losing a child on anyone. But I’ve vowed to be completely transparent throughout the last 9 months and this is part of that transparency-being broken for my friend but finding small comfort in someone else knowing how I feel. I shared last week that I felt a huge pull to become Lindsey’s friend and now I fully believe we were meant to become friends to walk this very long and hard road together. That makes me thankful. Not thankful that our sweet girls had to suffer and leave us way too soon but, thankful that we have each other to lean on.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The Word of God has been such a comfort to me in the last 9 months but, especially in the past 7 weeks and it calls me to comfort others.

It has been so hard this week to relive Sophie’s death and the days after as I try to comfort my friend but, having friends that walked this road before me was such a blessing, I can’t sit by and not try to help another mom. Because of my tragedy it has given me a greater sense of oneness with others who experience tragedy in any form but, especially in the loss of their child. Granted, it’s only been 7 weeks and I am definitely not ‘doing grief right’ every day but, I can feel for them in a very unique way that most if not all of their friends just cannot feel. (PS-Just to clarify there is no right or wrong way to do grief.)

Yesterday, there was a light shining on this dark and rainy week in the form of another of our friends. Abigail went back to the hospital for a post-op check up after her lung biopsy last Thursday. They were absolutely SHOCKED to find out that she is NED (no evidence of disease) and was receiving her LAST CHEMO EVER yesterday! Our sweet friends were floored! Not only is their baby cancer free but, she is finishing treatment only 6 months in…way sooner than they ever anticipated! My heart was completely bursting with joy for them! I wanted to get in the car and drive to Dallas and jump up and down and cry with them! I still might just show up at their house for my own impromptu party so, Jessica get ready ha! My immediate response was oh Thank you Father for this gift but then, again, the selfishness reared its ugly head with jealousy in the midst of my joy. SO incredibly thrilled for my friends but, so very jealous of their good news and so sad that we didn’t have the same outcome. But how sweet of the Lord to remind me that even in the middle of a hard week, He’s still so good and grief is not all there is for me. The light of my friends’ joy gets to shine into my darkness and speak life to me. How good He is to give me a friend that I can be completely honest with and say-I’m truly happy for you but so jealous and for her to say-in my joy I thought of you too. How GOOD He is to provide this kind of friendship for both of us to be so fully engrossed in our own different situations but also so aware of the other person too. It’s just incredible to me that I’d never have met these amazing people if it wasn’t for cancer. Good things can come even here.

That’s the Gospel at work. Creating beauty from ashes and shining light in the darkness. Finding hope where there seemingly is none and realizing that suffering isn’t forever. God doesn’t enjoy the suffering of His creation, nor does He cause that suffering. Our God heals (Jeremiah 30:17). He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). Even in eternity He wears the scars of Jesus’ suffering as a constant reminder that our suffering matters to Him. God did not cause it, but God will ultimately heal it. He calls us in so many different places in the Bible to FEAR NOT.

Now, all of that doesn’t answer the lingering question that’s on my heart after a roller coaster week like this one…Why do some kids have amazing outcomes and others (like mine) don’t? It’s a natural question that I’m sure every single person is thinking that’s reading this. I don’t have the answer but, I have the divine peace that helps me say… I’m ok not knowing. It doesn’t make my grief easier, it doesn’t bring Sophie or Kaylynn or any of the other lost ones back. It doesn’t cure cancer or make any of this make sense. But there’s comfort in eternity, there’s light in the darkness, there’s healing….. on earth as it is in heaven.

Please be praying for:

1. Kaylynn’s family as they celebrate her life this weekend and start the journey that no one wants to take.

2. Praise the Lord for the healing of Abigail and pray for continued health for her as she recovers and goes on to what’s next.

3. Continuing praying for Jase and Addie as they both are still inpatient at Children’s waiting for their immune systems to bounce back.

4. Pray for us as we grieve with Kaylynn’s family while a,so celebrating with other families. Pray that we can navigate ALL of the emotions that come with that.

5. Pray for our weekly counseling sessions that we started this week. We are hopeful that we will be able to talk through our grief and grow closer to each other.

Thanks friends.

6 weeks

Today my heart is heavy. It has been 6 weeks since my sweet one went to Jesus. Today is also International Childhood Cancer Day. Today ALSO happens to be the day that I will step back into the halls of Children’s Medical for the first time since I left my baby there 6 weeks ago. Today is heavy but, today also has purpose.

When we were at the hospital, I was very hesitant to make friends. While I know having a strong network of other cancer families is very important, it’s also incredibly hard to take on the grief and worry of other people while you’re right in the middle of fighting for your own child’s life. At least, that’s how it was for me. I didn’t really put myself out there to make friends because it just felt like too much. Too much worry, too manny tears, and just…too much CANCER! Sure, I followed the Children’s Cancer Family Page on Facebook, knew several names and faces, even had some good conversations but, as far as like exchanging numbers and becoming true friends…I just couldn’t do it. Self protection I guess.

The Lord knew better for me though because 5 weeks into our treatment another Tyler family was hit with Leukemia in their 4 year old son, Jase. They were at the hospital with nothing and I knew that feeling all too well so I went yo Walgreens, made a care bag, and left it at the nurse’s desk for them with my phone number. Shauna, Jase’s mom text me that night and my first real cancer friendship was born. They visited us every week when they came for chemo and I just love them so.

6 days later, Sophie’s best friend from church, Addie Leigh and her precious mom Tami showed up with Leukemia as well. Tami and I were pregnant together and friends from church so obviously, God sent us both to Children’s for each other. We also are pretty similar to each other which is great! She has been invaluable to me and I’m so thankful for our growing friendship in the midst of the horrible.

In August, when Sophie relapsed, we sat in the ICU waiting room while she was sedated and intubated. I see a guy walk in with like 23 children! Ok-it was like 8 but it seemed like a ton to my tired brain. I hear his children asking ‘How can mom nurse the baby if the baby can’t go back in the icu room?!’ They were seriously distraught. I immediately interjected-sorry to eavesdrop but you guys need a Ronald McDonald room ASAP!-We quickly found out Dustin and Jessica were the parents of Abigail who had just had her kidney removed with a Whilm’s tumor. They were beginning their cancer journey right there where we did-in ICU. We’ve since formed the most incredible friendship with them!

Then lastly, my sweet friend Lindsey. I had seen her daughter Kaylynn for months but never reached out to them-self protection remember? Then in October (I think), I read on the Children’s page that Kaylynn was considered terminal and my heart just broke. The Lord was telling me to befriend her mom, there’s no other way to describe it. I felt this unexplainable pull to her. So I messaged her on Facebook and we ended up meeting in the hallway and sitting in a side sitting room on the 6th floor for an hour one day while both of our girls slept. I know now, we were meant to walk the ‘terminal’ road together.

These friends of mine mean more to me than I could ever tell them. I pray for their babies every morning and at night when I can’t sleep. I tell Soph about them when I visit her at the cemetery and I ask her to help them be brave like her. I will admit that I some days have a hard time texting them because….well….their kids are still here. But what’s so great about these friends is that-I know they understand and they love me still. I know they pray for me because they tell me every time they do. I HATE the circumstances that formed these friendships but oh how thankful I am for them.

j

Today. 6 weeks after losing Sophie, I will walk down those halls to see ALL FOUR of my friends. They are ALL at the hospital right now. The halls are still full. Cancer doesn’t change and it doesn’t stop. I’m dreading the walk up the skybridge and the ride up that stupid talking Train elevator. But at the same time, I’m SO looking forward to hugging my friends and THE NURSES!!!!!!! Oh I can’t wait to hug me some nurses!!!

I am a purpose driven person. Give me a task and I can make it work. So today, I have a purpose. Today I will hug my friends, pray for their children, bring them food, and bring goodies to make them all smile and feel a little less like cancer. I wish I could do more but, people did SO much for us that I’m so blessed to be able to do anything for my friends.

Today, I ask you to pray for us and for our friends.

1. Pray for Jonathan and I as we walk those halls and hug those necks. Just pray for us.

2. Pray for Abigail. Her surgery is today to remove 2 nodules from her lungs and test them for cancer. This is HUGE for the remainder of her treatment. Pray that she recovers well and is CANCER FREE!!

3. Pray for Addie Leigh. Addie has been inpatient for over 2 weeks now with fever, no immune system, nerve pain, and viruses. Pray big that she will bounce back and be able to go home soon! Pray that PT will work miraculously for her legs and feet!

4. Pray for Jase. He was admitted yesterday for fever, RSV, and 2 viruses. He also has ZERO immune system. Pray that antibiotics will kick these problems and pray protection over him.

5. Pray for Kaylynn. While she is considered terminal, she is getting palliative chemo to give her time with her mama. Pray for a miracle to save Kaylynn but also pray that she feels good and can make the most of her time with her family.

6. Finally, I ask you to pray about how you can help kids like this. Do some research into organizations that fund research for better chemo and cures!

I know its a lot to pray for but, there’s a lot of kids….and a lot of cancer. They deserve so much more. God is still good and He’s still bigger. He’s big enough for this and so much more.

#AbigailtheWarriorPrincess #AddiesArmy #HulkStrong #PrayingforKaylynn #DoMoreForSoph

Month One

It’s been one month. One month since I saw her eyes, watched her breathe, and held her on my chest. One month since I changed a diaper, gave a bath, and rubbed lotion on soft pale skin. One month of trying to stay so busy that I don’t have time to think. One month of going through the day only to see her face when I try to sleep. One month of sitting by a graveside, burying my face into blankets and clothes trying to find a smell, begging God to take the terrible memories away and make the good ones more vivid. One month of aching arms and broken hearts.

But at the same time…

It’s been one month of getting loved on by more people that I can name. One month of gift bags, movie nights, dinners, lunches, hugs, and sweet messages. One month of hearing countless stories of how Sophie has and is still changing lives. One month of growing closer to my husband and my God because there’s no one else to turn to. One month of longing to be ‘Mom’ and friends saying here’s my baby to love on you. One month of being in a place where I’m forced to sit and BE STILL and know that He is God. One month of being COMPLETELY SURE that there HAS to be a Big God with a big Plan otherwise, how have I made it a month? That’s nothing short of a miracle in itself. We get up each day, still sad, yet determined to live a life worth more. We are living a life that’s broken and the only thing that can hold it together is Jesus.

You know, I’ve been kind of dreading today. February 4th. One month since she left us. But, I woke up this morning at complete peace. I woke up with the sweetest thought in my heart, Shelby, you aren’t one month further from her but, you’re one month CLOSER to an eternity with her and with Jesus.that has given me such peace today, even joy almost.while there’s no joy in losing your child….I’d never try to be fake and say that….there is joy picturing her healed and whole, running and dancing and watching us. There’s joy knowing that she’d be so sad if we just curled up and didn’t do more with our lives.

So where does that leave me? Where does that leave Sophie the Brave, this blog, and her legacy? The full answer is…..I have no idea. The short answer is, I’ve been MIA for a few weeks trying to wrap my mind around those questions. What’s next? Where do I go from here? How do I make my life about more?

So that’s what I’m exploring. I’ve been super inspired lately and am working on several different posts/articles. I’m working on a public speaking course and putting some serious time into studying my God’s Word and reaffirming in my heart that even though I am shattered and I still don’t understand why her…He is STILL BIGGER. Jonathan and I are figuring out how our marriage looks in this new light and we are looking for ways to DO MORE FOR SOPH.

How can you help?

1. Keep following our journey. I wanted this blog to be about more than Sophie and more than my journey as her mom it, about Jesus shining through all of it. And I’d love for you all to continue to follow me through this.

2. Please keep praying for us and our families and praying for what’s next for us all. Just because we have faith in the bigger picture, it doesn’t make the current picture hurt any less….like I said, I spend a lot of time with my face buried in her suitcase of hospital clothes. All the positivity in the world doesn’t change the broken hearts.

3. Pray for my speaking ministry course…..nothing may come of it but, it’s got me excited about writing and wanting opportunities to share what God is putting on my heart.

4. Keep looking for ways to DO MORE FOR SOPH and please share stories with us! It gives our hearts such joy knowing someone is doing something bigger just because Sophie inspired them.

Stay tuned for what’s to come because it just feels like the Lord has us right where He needs us.