The world doesn’t care that I’m grieving.

I’ve learned something in the last few days on our trip to Seattle for my sister’s wedding…the world doesn’t care that I’m grieving. My world felt like it stopped on January 4, 2018 when Sophie took her last breath but, it didn’t. Everything else outside of our little corner room on D6 at Children’s Health kept going. The clocks kept ticking, the hospital kept buzzing with activity, traffic still backed up, the sun still set, I kept breathing…and a whole host of other things kept going even though my body was stuck at 2:11 PM.

In the months following her death, I didn’t put myself into situations where i was around strangers much. I stayed in a bubble of people that know and care about me and Sophie. The world still moved on but, my people kept the bulk of change from slapping me in the face. Now, a few more months later, I’ve obviously re-entered the world a bit and am reminded daily that the world doesn’t care that my daughter died. My people care…but now that I’ve ventured outside of my comfort bubble of loved ones…the world is still big, it’s still turning, and it didn’t stop in January.

That became painfully obvious during our travels this week.

Grief does weird things to your brain. I now have, what I call ‘grief induced social anxiety’…I’m not a doctor but, I never had social anxiety or got overwhelmed easily before Sophie got sick. It now hits both Jonathan and myself pretty heavily sometimes…not all the time but, when it hits it’s pretty debilitating. Even with Zoloft on board.

In stressful situations, I get really overwhelmed all of a sudden, my heart pounds, I get really hot, tears tend to start leaking from my eyeballs and it leads to a full on sobfest.

And the world could care less.

On Friday, traffic didn’t care that we had a flight to catch for my sister’s wedding in Seattle. The 6 wrecks we passed had no clue that it had already been a hard week for me and neither did the construction crews that stopped us for almost an hour. The traffic in Seattle and the ferry schedules didn’t care that I was 200% overwhelmed by the time we got in our rent car at 7pm

Seattle time. None of it cared that I was on the verge of a full on panic meltdown. The rain and wet roads didn’t care that I was in tears because I was missing my sister’s rehearsal dinner on top of everything else. The world doesn’t care that I get anxious being away from home because I’m away from the cemetery…away from my girl. Then on our way home, yesterday, Hurricane Michael didn’t care that I was so ready to be away from large crowds and in my home on the couch under blankets. Airport delays didn’t care that the emotional hangover was setting in and I just needed to decompress at home for a bit.

Grief multiplies stress.

Stress multiplies exhaustion.

Exhaustion multiplies grief…..and on it goes, until it passes.

And the world doesn’t care but, Jesus does.

He knows the anxiety.

He knows the stress.

He knows the overwhelmed sense of panic.

He knows the tears.

He knows the grief behind it all.

He knows your heart.

He knows you.

He is the Shepherd that leaves the 99 sheep to find the one that’s lost.

And you know what? It’s already redeemed. Because we decided that driving home from Dallas at 1AM wasn’t safe so we got a hotel. Now, today, after 10 hours of sleep…we are going to visit the hospital and our sweet friend Addie. So yeah, Friday and yesterday’s travels were awful. But we had precious time with my family. My sister married her person in a gorgeous ceremony and we got to take in some incredible scenery.

We are thankful to be safely back in Texas. We are thankful to get to love on our nurses and friends.

So I’m calling that a win.

#SophieTheBrave #DoMoreForSoph #GodisBigger #OneDayCloser #AddiesArmy #WorldMentalHealthDay #1in5

Memories of Miracles: 9 months

Everything right now is ‘one year ago’. It’s pretty brutal. And today is no different.

One year ago, Sophie was declared cancer free. She was still extremely disabled and we were facing the terrifying stem cell transplant process but, she was cancer free. I still had such hope and purpose! I was adamant that if we could just beat the cancer then I would Be rehab mom for as long as it took. I wasn’t unrealistic…I knew we had a very, very long road ahead of us.

But, here we are one year later, and she’s been gone for 9 months. 39 weeks. She was born at 38 weeks. So, she’s been gone now longer than I was pregnant with her. And it sucks so much.

Now, one year later, we know that it was an absolute miracle that she went into remission.

You see, we had genetic testing done on Sophie’s tumor and on Jonathan and myself after she died. And we found out that Sophie’s Lymphoma was not hereditary. It wasn’t ‘our fault’. She just had some rogue cells get through her body’s cancer filter (very scientific terms). She also had a genetic tumor mutation that we never could’ve predicted or known about without this autopsy. Sophie had a PTEN gene mutation…there’s a big long definition for that but basically…her body genetically was unable to respond to chemo. Chemo never would’ve saved her.

So, now do you see why remission at all was a miracle?

Even the fact that she responded to chemo from May-August and was her sassy and Brave self was such a miracle. We very seriously, should have lost her in May….or August…but the Lord gave us such precious time caring for her and witnessing her incredible strength.

He has shown me that that little miracle of remission was for a purpose. Because Sophie went into remission, we were sent to Cook’s in Ft. Worth to get ready for transplant. At the time I was so upset about it because that meant leaving our beloved nurses and doctors at Children’s.

But God.

At Cook’s, we were placed on the neurological rehab floor instead of the cancer floor. Soph’s immune system was stable enough that she wasn’t at risk for infection and all of her doctors thought being on the rehab floor for intensive therapy was the best place for her. That floor was less restrictive than the cancer floor. Sophie didn’t have to keep her chest port accessed so I got to have her on my chest all day, everyday. We also could sign her out of the floor and take her on walks. Those were the best parts of our days. We bundled her up in her supportive stroller and explored the gorgeous grounds of Cook’s. Sophie’s favorite place was outside and at Cook’s we got to take her out 2 or 3 times a day. It was also November and December so Christmas decorations were everywhere and Cook’s does Christmas BIG! Getting to take Sophie out in the evenings to see the lights was another highlight of our days.

While we were there, Sophie ‘felt’ better. She was still disabled but, she wasn’t throwing up constantly or in a lot of nerve pain. We had her feedings under control and her medication combinations just right. She was making small progresses in therapy and smiling and laughing. We read books and sang songs, took sweet couch naps, walked laps on the 2nd floor and visited the chapel.

Those 6 weeks were hard because we were in such a limbo of uncertainty. But they were also such a blessing. Knowing what I know now, that her tiny body was genetically unable to beat her cancer…those 6 weeks of remission were such a gift from Jesus. The cuddles and time together….just precious. I will cherish that time forever. Each little memory…every miracle.

And today, we are one month closer to forever.

8 Months…What’s next?

Another month has come and gone. Just like the 7 before it. More days without her sweet face to kiss. More nights without hearing her giraffe rattling around on the baby monitor. More times I look up thinking I’ll see those big brown eyes but, they aren’t there.

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This morning Jonathan said “It’s so hard to believe it’s been 8 months…yet I feel like I haven’t seen her in 8 years.” And he’s so right.

There are days when I truly wake up and have to remind myself she’s gone. But honestly, those days are getting farther apart. She isn’t fading but, our old life is. We are now once again used to the life of non-parents. We get up and go about our days without any of the “parenting stuff”. It sucks. I hate that that now feels normal. We babysat my friend’s precious 15 month old overnight Sunday and…it was hard. It almost felt awkward because I’m out of the mom habit. But…it’s our life right now.

Today, I started a new  bible study and was asked in the get to know you activity “What’s the hardest part about life right now?” and my answer was…everything. Everything is hard. Every single aspect of my life is so hard. Sleeping is hard. Being motivated is hard. Getting work done is hard. Marriage is hard. Family is hard. Friendships are hard. Being around people is hard. Being alone is hard. Writing is hard. Praying is hard. Life is…..just hard.

But it’s also good.

While I’d trade everything about my current life for Sophie to be here, healthy and whole…I can’t do that. This is the life I’ve been given and while it’s painfully hard, there is still good. There’s redemption in the fact that even in the hard, the Lord has opened so many doors and opportunities for us through Sophie’s story. Friendships have formed for us that I don’t think would have ever happened without cancer. Relationships have changed and deepened. Our marriage has grown, changed, torn a little, and been stitched back up by the Lord and His incredible grace over and over again.

The Lord has been just so good to us even in our suffering. I’ve written countless times about the way our community has poured into us and the way we’ve been loved on. He has deepened my desire to know Him and have a true relationship with Him daily. It’s been life changing in good ways too…which is hard to accept that good can come out of your 2 year old’s cancer and death.

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For a long time, thinking about “What’s next” wasn’t really an option. Again, 8 months isn’t a long time but, at the same time…sitting around doing nothing isn’t a healthy way to spend the next 50 plus years of our lives.

So many amazing things are happening right now and it’s bittersweet that she isn’t here for them and…without her cancer, they wouldn’t be happening.

Most everyone knows, or has at least figured out that I am not returning to teaching this year. My heart is not in it and I frankly don’t have the energy. I’m not sure if I’m done for now or done forever but, we’ll see what the next few years hold for me.

I have been enjoying the freedom that comes with running your own schedule. I am freelance writing and creating social media content for a marketing firm, helping a friend on his law firm’s blog, running my personal blog and Sophie’s Facebook page, continuing to submit content to Her View From Home, and I have a few speaking events coming up! All really exciting stuff!

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at our local Childhood Cancer Awareness kick off party…it was again, hard…but I’ll take any opportunity to talk about my baby.

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I have a second speaking event coming up next week for the hospital which I am EXTREMELY excited and nervous about. I am speaking at Children’s annual employee recognition banquet to basically most of the hospital staff! I will be sharing Sophie’s story and reading my Letter to Nurses…oh and then sitting with the CEO of Children’s Health!…No big deal right? They’re even sending hair and makeup TO MY ROOM!!! So yeah, excited about telling a room full of medical personnel about the impact their jobs have on families and how God is Bigger than suffering…it’s a big deal.

Finally, on October 4th I’ll be speaking at a Celebrating Women event that my sweet friend Ashley asked me to be apart of. I’m super excited about that!

Jonathan, also has some great doors opening to him. He’s getting more involved on the deacon board and in teaching freshmen boys bible study at church. He’s also decided to pursue fitness full time. Going back to anything ‘normal’ has felt wrong to both of us and he has always had this desire to help people. Fitness is his third love behind Jesus and me…at least I hope I come before fitness haha! He has decided to start his own online fitness coaching business and I’m really excited to see him be able to do what he loves while helping others achieve health and wellness.

There will never be a time when life isn’t hard. She will always be missing. There will always be a Sophie shaped hole in our lives. But I’m so thankful for videos and pictures and her special things to remind us on the days that she seems to be fading that she’s real. She happened. She changed our lives and made us parents. She was brave and perfect. And we will see her again.

One Day Closer.

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To EVERY mom….

To the one with healthy children in your lap, YOU are a great mom. Whether you work full time or stay at home, you are amazing and deserve to be celebrated everyday but, especially today. You sacrificed your body and your own well being over and over again and I know you don’t regret any of it. You are enough and you are appreciated even when you don’t feel it.

To the one holding a child that someone else carried inside of her body, YOU are a great mom. Whether you faced infertility, surrogacy, chose to adopt, or have biological and adopted children, you are amazing and deserve to be celebrated everyday but, especially today. You deal with lawyers, paperwork, court dates, birth parents, unknown health issues, and I honestly can’t even imagine what else and yet you love these children as if they came from your body because they live in your heart.

To the one holding a child that someone else carried inside of her body until that child can be placed with a forever family YOU are a great mom. Whether you foster often or are fostering to adopt you are amazing and deserve to be celebrated everyday but, especially today. You care for kiddos that have been through unimaginable hardships and deal with all kinds of emotions. You take them into your home and love them even knowing you will probably have to give them up and trust ‘the system’ with them. You are a hero and you make are changing lives.

To the one who longs to be a mom but, has hit roadblocks YOU are a great mom. Whether you walk the IVF road, suffer miscarriage after miscarriage, stick yourself with hormone shots, track ovulation calendars, and cry each month when that test says negative, you are amazing and deserve to be celebrated everyday but, especially today. People say ‘Why don’t you just adopt?’ and ‘You should stop putting yourself through this.’ and yet, you continue on longing for the plus sign on that test and the heartbeat on that sonogram. You are strong and resilient.

To the one who held her child here on earth but, had to give them back to Heaven, YOU are a great mom. Whether your child was born sleeping, lived a few hours, lived several years, or died as an adult, you are amazing and deserve to be celebrated everyday but, especially today. You’ve suffered the most painful thing that anyone could suffer and yet, you get out of bed each day and live your life. You say their name, visit the cemetary, keep their favorite things, and live your life wondering what could have been. You are not alone. You are brave and you are still a mom even if your arms are empty.

To the one who carried a baby in your body and then gave that baby to another YOU are a great mom. Whether you were a surrogate or decided someone else could give your child a better life, you are amazing and deserve to be celebrated everyday but, especially today. You carried that life inside of you and selflessly gave them the life they deserved with a family that will love them with their whole hearts. You are incredible and you are worthy of love.

To the one who has a strained relationship with your child, YOU are a great mom. Whether the strain is your fault or theirs, you are still amazing and deserve to be celebrated everyday, especially today. You are doing the best you can and love your children no matter what. Forgive yourself, forgive them, and know you are very loved.

This is my first Mother’s Day after the loss of my two-year-old daughter to cancer, and for the first time, I realize Mother’s Day isn’t flowers and rainbows for everyone. I’ve spent 29 years inside a bubble that has never known loss; four months ago that bubble exploded. But I also know no matter what road we’re walking in this adventure called motherhood, we are all great moms.

I hope you are celebrated even if it’s painful. I hope you have people surrounding you to hug you, love you, and see you for who you are

Originally published on Her View From Home

Another month closer and another date dreaded…

It’s been 7 months and 3 days since I held my baby and felt her weight on my chest. I’ve read about amputees that feel phantom pain where their missing limb once was and that’s what grief feels like sometimes. My arms will physically ache to have her weight in them. My chest will feel heavy like she’s asleep on it. My fingers can feel her fuzzy head and soft skin. It’s comforting and agonizing all at once. I miss her more than I think I’d miss an arm or a leg.

This week is a tough week. There have been a lot of tears this week. More than there have been in awhile. I mean there are small tears pretty much daily but…this week has been hard. One year ago this week was the week of relapse. Today, one year ago, we were at home with Sophie for the very last night. On August 8th she was readmitted to the hospital with 16oz of pleural fluid next to her left lung. On the 9th, we found out it was filled with cancer and that our doctors didn’t know what to do next. On the 10th, Sophie crashed during her PET Scan and bone marrow biopsy and ended up intubated, sedated, and tied down with a chest tube in the ICU. Between the 11th-15th she got 15 doses of the chemo while under sedation and intubation that would take her independence away. The rest of the month was spent watching her slowly lose things. First it was standing, then sitting up, then being able to grab things, point her fingers, suck on her pacifier, swallow her spit, turn her head, move her limbs on commands, and her voice…all slowly went away.

It all started one year ago today. The beginning of the end.

You can imagine that’s why I’ve been dreading August. For a cancer family, especially one where you lose your child, it’s not just Birthday, diagnosis day, and death day. It’s all of these other dates that are burned into our brains like a brand. Trust me, I’d love to not remember dates, but I’ve always been a dated person. I’ve always had 3 or 4 calendars and….when Sophie was sick I chronicled everything that happened to her everyday in my notebook. Dates and what happened on them matter to me. But this week? This month? I wish I could forget the significance of these dates.

We did something last week that I’ve wanted to do for months but wasn’t ready for. We had our families send us all of the videos they have of Sophie on their phones. We have both watched every video on our two phones so many times that, we have them memorized. So getting this whole album of ‘new’ videos is such a gift. Many, if not most of them, I’ve never seen so it’s like I’m seeing her…a memory of her that I didn’t have but now I do.

How thankful I am for technology. We have friends that lost their daughter to Leukemia 30 years ago….they don’t have videos and pictures just readily available in the palm of their hands. But we do.

The precious videos of healthy Sophie and pre-relapse Sophie are soothing. They make me smile and fill my heart with joy because she’s just so.dang.cute! Everything she did and said was so cute! But the sick videos? The videos of her trying to talk and trying so hard to control her limbs? The ones where she’s crying in therapy because sitting up with 2 therapists assisting her is so frustrating? Videos of her fuzzy little head and sweet smile as she watches her favorite shows? Those precious noises she made the last few months…those dark brown eyes that I love so much…

Those stab me straight in the heart. I want to pick her up off of the screen and hold her to my chest. Watching them….I just can’t believe that was her life. She was stuck in that bed for 130 days. Disabled, frustrated, and unable to stop anything that was happening to her. I’m so thankful for her life but I just can’t believe that was part of it. But I can’t not watch them…they’re my baby. They’re how she looked and was at the end of her life. They’re my sweet Punkin that I cared and advocated for so fiercely. They’re of the part of my heart that I fought for until we left the hospital on January 4th.

And they’re all I have left. So, I watch them and I laugh and cry and close my eyes listening to her voice. I listen to her and Jonathan call me ‘Mama’. Then I hit my knees on the bedroom floor and sob because it’s so very hard, but comforting too. They are proof that she was real. She happened. She was amazing. She fought like hell. And she was so very loved.

In an effort to help my heart this month, I’m doing an August Scripture Challenge with verses showing that #GodisBigger on Sophie’s Facebook page….I’d love for you to join me as I share my heart and what the Lord is showing me this month. I’d also greatly appreciate prayers as this week and month play out. 💜

“Hear my cry, Oh God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy” Psalm 62:1-3

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!

What’s Speaking to Me Wednesday: Ephesians 3:20

Once again, it’s technically Thursday but, I’ve been reading Ephesians 3 throughout the day so, it counts. 

So yesterday was Halloween and I really didn’t think it would matter to me. We haven’t made a big deal out of Halloween for the last 2 years of Sophie’s life so, why would this year be any different? Her first Halloween was spent at home with an ear infection and a ‘1st Halloween’ shirt and last year I think we put her in her Snow White onesie for my school Fall Festival but that was about it. This year, she was hooked up to her Methotrexate (chemo) infusion all day, had therapies, and was sleepy…a pretty standard day here in cancer world. The nurses were all wearing Troll hair wigs which was hilarious and downstairs there was a huge Halloween hoopla that I only know about because our nurse mentioned it. I had a crocheted Princess Poppy wig from Trolls that a sweet friend sent us so, I put it on Soph and snapped a picture just for Halloween posterity. Other than that, it was just another day for us. It wasn’t until I got to Ronald McDonald House yesterday afternoon that the sadness hit me. I felt sad that Soph was missing out on yet another milestone that all the other ‘normal’ kids get to have. I was sad that my Facebook was full of precious babies in costume onesies, toddlers running around as Elsa and Moana, and families at fall festivals and pumpkin patches. My husband even went over to see our nieces and nephew all dressed up before they headed out to Trick-or-Treat. My family was in 3 different places yesterday-Soph at the hospital getting chemo, me at RMH sleeping off exhaustion, and Jonathan at work then home all alone without his girls. 

Just another day. 

I will freely admit that I had a bit of a pity party thinking about what we are missing during all of this and how much I miss my ‘normal’ life with my sweet little family of 3 at home together. I sat in a hot bath tub with a bath bomb and Netflix on the iPad propped up on the top of the toilet by the tub and had a nice cry. That’s a pretty standard spot for me to be if I’m at RMH. After I dried it up and got dressed, I pulled out my little box of index cards that I’ve been writing scriptures on. I eventually want to put my control freak all over it and color coordinate the cards by topic or book of the Bible but, that has yet to happen. For now, I just have 3 sections- blank cards, cards with just the heading, and cards with the full scripture written out. I like to grab one that’s already written on when I’m feeling sad or overwhelmed and it’s usually a good wake up call to lean on Jesus and not myself. So that’s what I did-I grabbed a card and read it. It was:

Ephesians 3:16 -that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being (ESV translation) 

Talk about a wake up call huh? ‘Strengthened with power through his spirit.’ I get chills just reading that. He doesn’t just send us some random help when we ask for it. He’s not sending a third party to help us on his behalf. He send us HIS OWN SPIRIT-part of himself-not just to comfort us in times of need but, to strengthen us with power. That’s the Holy Spirit y’all! The Creator and King of all things on earth and in heaven thinks you are important enough that He sends himself through the Spirit to strengthen you when you need it. Thank you Lord for that. -Just stop reading and say thank you with me here! 

I read that verse, mustered out a tired and weary prayer, took a Benedryl for my sinus headache, then went to sleep with a prison documentary on in the background-I’m weird, I know. So today, I slept in-thank you benedryl- and got myself back up to the hospital to face another day. All morning I had Ephesians on my mind so while Sophie napped today I decided to read the rest of the chapter. All of chapter 3 is great but, verses 14-21 are particularly encouraging. It’s subtitled the ‘Prayer for Spiritual Strength’ for a reason. Verse 20 is what caught my eye the most and what has been speaking to me all evening. Here’s a few of the translations that I really dug into…

Ephesians 3:20- 

-Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think according to the power at work within us. (ESV) 

– Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or think according to his power that is at work within us. (NIV)

-Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (NLT) 

Basic translation for all of those= GOD IS BIGGER! He’s bigger than anything we could ever ask or even think of asking for. He can do immeasurably more, far more abundantly, and infinitely more. 

Immeasurable. Abundant. Infinite. More. 

Those words all mean great things, big, powerful words. And even those words don’t do justice the full measure of God’s ‘bigness’. That same power that healed the blind and afflicted, multiplied loaves and fishes, and raised Jesus from the dead to sit at the right hand of the Father-that power– is also at work within those that put faith in Him. That power in us- can accomplish the great and mighty works He has set out before us. It can accomplish MORE than we can ask or think of. He’s good. And He is bigger. He’s bigger than cancer. He’s bigger that missing milestones and normalcy. He’s bigger than the worry that plagues our broken human hearts. He’s bigger. We just have to trust in that and have big faith in a Big God.