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She DID IT! Wait…it gets better!
This gallery contains 16 photos.
She DID IT! Wait…it gets better!
This gallery contains 4 photos.
Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? Every day with my children is a gift. I continue to cherish and unwrap each moment. Each day new, exciting, challenging and exhausting. I ADORE. My.Girls!!!! And even though Sophie isn’t in this image below, she’s included in all I am about to say, because she truly taught me […]
I am FREE!!!! I am FREEEE!!!!!
he who The Son sets free is free indeed!
But take heart! It could never be better to stay once He determines otherwise; if the loving hand of our Lord moves us forward, it must be best. Forward, in His name, to green pastures, quiet waters, and mountain heights! (See Ps 23:2.) “He goes on ahead of [us].” So whatever awaits us is encountered first by Him, and the eye of faith can always discern His majestic presence out in front. When His presence cannot be seen, it is dangerous to move ahead. Comfort your heart with the fact that the Savior has Himself experienced all the trials He asks you to endure; He would not ask you to pass through them unless He was sure that the paths were not too difficult or strenuous for you.
This is the blessed life—not anxious to see far down the road nor overly concerned about the next step, not eager to choose the path nor weighted down with the heavy responsibilities of the future, but quietly following the Shepherd, one step at a time.
Dark is the sky! and veiled the unknown morrow!
Dark is life’s way, for night is not yet o’er;
The longed-for glimpse I may not meanwhile borrow;
But, this I know and trust, HE GOES BEFORE.
Dangers are near! and fears my mind are shaking;
Heart seems to dread what life may hold in store;
But I am His—He knows the way I’m taking,
More blessed even still—HE GOES BEFORE.
Doubts cast their weird, unwelcome shadows o’er me,
Doubts that life’s best—life’s choicest things are o’er;
What but His Word can strengthen, can restore me,
And this blest fact; that still HE GOES BEFORE.
HE GOES BEFORE! Be this my consolation!
He goes before! On this my heart would dwell!
He goes before! This guarantees salvation!
HE GOES BEFORE! And therefore all is well.
J. Danson Smith
The oriental shepherd always walked ahead of his sheep. He was always out in front. Any attack upon the sheep had to take him into account first. Now God is out in front. He is in our tomorrows, and it is tomorrow that fills people with fear. Yet God is already there. All the tomorrows of our life have to pass through Him before they can get to us. F. B. Meyer
God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today,
Certain of finding at sunrise,
Guidance and strength for my way;
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain,
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.
So Far (A 3 min video begins this post. Simply click the words that proceed the parenthesis),
Sophie has spent nearly 3 years living in heaven. Her father, big sister and myself have been learning to navigate through grief. It feels like scaling K2. The new terrain is unpredictable, dangerous, terrifying, unfamiliar and complicates our souls. Radically our travels are transforming our family. We have stumbled upon courage, strength, perserverence, love and joy through the climb. However, our progress is somewhat stilted, our visibility is randomly obstructed and intermittently we loose ground. Travel guide authorities we have met while climbing have suggested that our climb through grief is not yet complete. “Completed? What? We’re not professional climbers, not even novices! We have an 8 year old in tow! We were chosen for this climb but we are totally untrained, uneducated and physically weakened by the circumstances and requirements of this task. We’re barely putting one foot in front of the other. Breathing shallow. Chapped, bruised, bleeding, salt water stings our cheeks. There are days we slide backwards. Reaching completion seems totally unattainable? or is it just unrealistic?”
I think our grieving process will never reach completion until our entire family is reunited, reaching our final destination, together in heaven forever. Then our climb through grief will be complete. Until then, navigating our climb through grief may be less intense, there will be moments of discovery, epiphany and success. There already have been so many of those miraculous moments and yet for us to have to climb each day separate from Sophie whom we loved so dearly, the word insurmountable comes to my mind.
It is not the *natural* order of life to bury a child. So I would have to conclude that climbing through the grieving process would not follow any *natural* patterns either. Certainly, there are opportunities to be transformed along the journey. Navigating with the pain. We *live* each day by the Grace of God. Yet, still there are days where we shake our fists and a whisper turns into a scream.
I turned to the scream of One Man who made the ultimate climb,
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Remembering the promise that was made prior to His last scream, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” One day I will be in paradise too and HE has not forsaken me! We will complete our climb through grief, our reunion awaits! He blew into my lungs filling me with everything I needed to head for higher ground. Hard pressed and still learning to climb through the brutal terrain of grief tender hearted and incomplete. Until….
Regret: (emotion) an intelligent or emotional dislike for personal past acts and behaviors.
Regret, like a prowling lion seeking whom it may devour in our family this past Christmas season 2011.
It caused us to question every nugget of eternal truth we have hidden in our hearts. Everything that has brought us comfort and peace was under siege. Regret’s questions came knocking on the all the doors of our hearts. What if? Why? Why didn’t we? What about that? If only, I wish I would have…. All of us under the attacks of this unwanted predator regarding our precious Sophie.
This deadly assault ravaged the tender heart of our precious 7 yr old Abigail, the most. The constant prowling and pounding on the door of her sensitive grief stained heart was excruciating. Regret is difficult for any person to battle (we all have them and there is an element of responsiblity and truth in each one) but, for the constant assault to be waged very strategically on a child! our precious Abigial ….was just about more than this Mama could bare.
As Abby cradled Sophie’s most precious Christmas ornaments, an eternal living hope, spoke in truthful whispers.
I am always surrounding you, my Ab. I am glorified and healed. I am alive. I am not lost. I am not gone. Sisters are forever. I have no need of rest in heaven. We will be together again. I love you. Our relationship continues. The Father allows me to communicate with you through the heavenly-veil, remember our butterflies!
These precious whispers were accompanied with a fierce ROAR of darkness; it was attempting to extinguish the Truth and Light.
We prayed, waited, watched and listened as Abby continued to reach towards heaven and all its surrounding promises. Russ and I continued to remind Abby of the most important eternal truths that have become water to our souls; hope, heaven, love, joy, treasures, alive and forever. However, we needed God to whisper personally into Abby’s heart and bring to life every truth we knew Abby held dear, therefore silencing the predator of regret.
Christmas had passed, we packed our precious family ornaments and rang in the New Year of 2012. Hopeful, expectant and knowing in an instant this battle could end, healing could begin and regret would flea!
And as it were, God was near, rapidly working all things together, wasting nothing;
January 11, 2012
Russ and I tucked Abby in bed. We read a devotion together, here is part of that excerpt
Jesus told us that we should be generous with other people, but sometimes we don’t feel much like sharing. Instead the things that we have, we want to keep them all to ourselves. But God doesn’t want selfishness to rule our hearts; He wants us to be generous.
Unbeknownst to Russ and I as we concluded regret came pounding on the door of Abby’s tender heart. Suddenly, tears began streaming down her face,
“I didn’t share with Sophie. I didn’t know she was going to heaven, I didn’t want her to go. I didn’t share with her while she was here.”
an outpouring of regret…
Wide-eyed, I bit my lower lip to keep it from trembling, tears accumulated, my breath left me. I couldn’t speak. (Oh dear God! This is what she remembers? a fleeting moment of their time together? torture for Abby’s tender heart)
Russ, (the other half of my heart) very gently and calming spoke, “Abby, you are a wonderful big sister, the best. Sometimes, we don’t share when we are little. We have to learn how to do it. You are the perfect big sister for Sophie.” Abby looked at her father and said, “really?” He nodded and said, “and you know what Sophie would say?” Abby shrugged. “It’s ok Ab. it’s ok.” Upon hearing these words, exhausted from battling, Abigail collapsed into her father’s arms sobbing. Hearing, “It’s ok Ab. it’s ok,” words of forgiveness that Sophie would extend to her without hesitation in conjunction with the breath of God; freed Abby! Regret fled, questions dissolved and Abby fell deeply asleep, peace.
God wanted to highlight this moment of life giving freedom; exceedingly and abundantly for Abigail. He wanted eternal living and restoration to manifest itself to Abby in a tangible way. God wanted Abby to know her relationship with Sophie is different but, it continues in extraordinary ways; indestructible, incorruptible and forever.
So….4 nights later
January 15, 2012
Russ tucked Abby in bed. She said with utter confidence, “You tell me about any dreams you have about Sophie and I will tell you mine.
“Interesting Russ thought and noted…..not “If” but “When.”
That following night,
January 17, 2012
I woke Abby for school. She proceeded to tell me of a dream she had of Sophie that night.
I was at the dance studio with Samantha. We were working on stuff. Both of us, kept seeing bright twinkling lights shinning around the room. The light began to makes letters and spell, S O P H I E.
And then… I SAW Sophie, she was there dancing with us!
Then she gave me a hug!
“and I felt her physical body! I felt her physical body!!!!!” Abby squealed with excitement.
A personal visit from Sophie, in Abby’s dream! I cradled Abby in my arms and began to thank God for replacing regret with truth of every eternal whisper!
The truth is Abigail spent every moment of her time patiently teaching Sophie each one of her dance recital routines; while Sophie was on the earth. The precious gift they shared helped Sophie refocus her mind off the pain that Williams Syndrome caused her on earth. It united two sisters together before the Throne of God!
They continue to present their gifts of worship to God together, Abby’s dream confirmed it. One sister dances on earth and one in heaven, always together; bound by His promises, forever!
Today, December 8, 2011 I celebrate Abigail Grace Henkel, my first born gift. Her school, Grace Christian Academy performs, “Dude, You hear what I hear?” and I continue to stand in broken awe of how God is working to make beauty for ashes.
Our 1st Christmas with Sophie in heaven
We returned home to Jacksonville from an extend vacation with friends and family in California; just in time for Abby to participate with her (Dance Theatre of Jacksonville) class in this adorable Christmas dance entitled “Chicken Pox for Christmas.”
The day of her Christmas recital December 13, 2009, had been a dark day. As we put up our tree and started hanging the ornaments. She would say, “I miss my baby sister.” Abby would see an ornament with Sophie’s picture or ornaments from the previous couple of years that were Sophie’s and her broken heart was evident. My heart joined in her pain.
In a moment of reflection I realized, I have been blessed with two extraordinary girls.
Abby; my first born, very shy on a regular day to day basis however, she LOVES to sing and dance. (Kind of a walking contradiction in my mind.) But, I had repeatedly witnessed her gift first hand. If Abby was given a song to sing or steps to do (from the age of 3) she would remember, participate and begin to beam.
Sophie; never shy within our family circle. She sang and danced from the moment she was able. These two sisters were synchronized in their love to sing and dance. It truly was their bond. They danced every second they were together on earth, it was their love language.
This is Abby’s first recital performance since Sophie went to heaven. (Abigail is the one in the middle of this video, big red bow, glitter skit and top.) I wasn’t sure if her love for dance would reappear, had the brokenness of her heart, shattered her love of dance, stolen that which gave her so much joy? Would the courage of the young boy David arise and cause the enemy to flee?? I was nervous for my Abigail.
And suddenly; the glory of God shown around her as the music began. Sophie was there as well, I know it.
I was so blessed to see her love every second of this performance. Something she’s been gifted at and truly loves to do!
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable!!
Not even our devastation, broken hearts or anguish can remove what God has deposited! His destiny and will for our lives can not be stolen!
Impossible: unable to exist or happen. Unable to be done performed. Incapable of being true. Hopelessly unsuitable; difficult.
So many new exciting opportunities coupled with so many difficult challenges have presented themselves to me in the past month; I have been feeling the intensity of the Potter’s hands.
Tis the season; right? A constant combination of “to do lists” with holiday festivities, which seems pretty usual with the onset of the Christmas season.
On top of which we continue to try to create our “new normal” ever since my girls went to heaven. The Christmas seasons thus far have proven to be difficult for my fragile heart to handle. Unearthing, our precious Christmas treasures is a gentle balance of excitement and reminding myself to breathe.
When I was a young girl my Grandmother started an ornament tradition with each member of our family. My Grandmother assigned us all to a specific type of ornament. I was assigned angels. She has given me many angels over my 40 yrs. I unpack and hang my beautiful winged collection every year. Their significance has changed dramatically. Angels constantly in the presence of God, surrounding the throne accompanied by my daughter Sophie and my sister Nancy; perspective changed, forever. My comprehension of the Truth and the reality of my girls living there, being swallowed up by life captivates my thoughts! They are not dead, gone, lost they are very much living and active. Sophie and Nancy are being about their Father’s business, as He wills and deploys them to achieve supernatural things to glorify Himself, comfort us on the earth and communicate through the heavenly veil to us….breathe, breathe.
Christmas 2011; so much to do and the impossibility of it all, a state of overwhelming was just around the corner.
And then He reminded me of just what He has done and can do.
Stones of Remembrance
Spring of 2010
My 6-year-old daughter Abby asked, “When we get to our new home how will Sophie know where we are?” My husband, Russ had just Retired a Master Sergeant after 21 years in the US Marine Corps. We had just sold the first home we ever bought, 3 1/2 years prior. The only home our 2 daughters had ever known. Our 2 ½ year old daughter, Sophie was now living in heaven, after open-heart surgery just 7mths before. The world was moving very fast.
Abby’s heart was now troubled. Abby was worried that if we left the only house Sophie ever lived in on earth how would she know where to find us? I wasn’t prepared for the depth of this question coming from my 5 yr old after a 2 day journey from N.C to TN. I was however, enthusiastic about her expectation that somehow Sophie would be in touch with us! And I was surprised at the confidence and assurance of my answer. With no hesitation and quite automatically I spoke, “Honey, I don’t know how we will know. But God will show Sophie where we are and we will know that she knows. I promise, you know? She smiled and agreed with a nod of her head.
We were just about to exit the freeway to see our new apartment in TN for the first time. We had no idea what miraculous events were about to occur. In our wildest imaginations we would not have expected such extraordinary events to occur.
What God did to confirm this divinely inspired promise to Abby is supernatural, miraculous, loving and extremely personal. Not one detail did He overlook, sheer perfection. To explain such detail requires traveling back in time just a bit, so bare with me.
Back in time
While Sophie was on the earth, she loved butterflies. I too shared a love of butterflies. I have always loved the symbolic picture of a “new creation” in Christ. The butterfly’s intense transformation; beginning as a caterpillar, challenged in their emergence from the cocoon and then being victorious as they are released into the wild as they take flight. They are completely transformed called into a whole new destiny. Once caterpillars, they crawled on the ground eating leaves and after being confined in their chrysalis stage they emerge something totally and completely exquisite with wings! Their destiny is to fly and to drink sweet nectar!
Sophie was captivated by butterflies. As Sophie began to recognize pictures, and her speech developed, she would point and say, “ohhh pretty buffff-fly Mama.” She also had a collection of butterflies hanging on fishing line above her bed. Every night, Russ would lift her up, in a horizontal laying position, as if she was flying herself, so that she could pet each one before bedtime.
2 Spring seasons Sophie was on the earth. During the last spring season she would constantly try to catch a butterfly. Her attempts were unsuccessful, but she never stopped trying. Russ acquired a butterfly net and spent quite a bit of time running around our backyard trying to catch a butterfly for Sophie to hold. He never caught one but never stopped trying. I really had never met anyone who had ever caught a butterfly. It was mission impossible, futile.
May 29, 2010
Abby and I finally arrived at our new apartment home. Russ has arrived a few days prior to sign leasing information and get ready for the movers to arrive. Everything was new to us, a location we had never been and our new residence. The apartment was void of all furniture Abby ran around, explored and giggled with delight. The movers were to arrive the following day so our first night we stayed in a hotel.
It was a beautiful sunny day. Abby was wearing one of her favorite tops. A purple tank top with a sparkle butterfly design on it. As her exploration of her new residence subsided, back out to our car we went. We stood outside for a moment, under a huge tree cherry blossom tree observing the neighborhood and then it happened….
A butterfly came and landed on Abby’s hand!!! She gasped and quietly whispered, “Look Mommy.” I thought for sure as quickly as it had landed it would fly away, one quick move, or loud sound and our beautiful visitor would take flight. Enormous smiles emerged from our faces as we looked at one another. I whispered, “hold still, sweet pea.” as I dug for my iPhone to memorialize the moment. Abby began to giggle because the butterfly began to walk around on the back of her hand and she said, “It tickles.” and it began to dawn on me that our beautiful visitor was in no hurry. So, I placed my hand next to Abby’s and this precious butterfly walked onto the back of my hand and began to “tickle” me too. Abby and I were totally awestruck! I looked at Abby with a huge smile and said, “Sophie knows where we are Abby. Do you know that in your heart?” Abby nodded with a grin through a well of tears. Russ came out of the garage and yelled across the parking lot (he’s a Marine), “Hey what are you two doing?” I thought his shouting across the parking lot would scare our divinely directed visitor away but the butterfly stayed firmly planted on me. Abby waived him over, as if to say, “come quickly” as he got near to us; Russ could not believe what he saw. Mission impossible had become a reality! He held out his hand and then this butterfly walked from my hand to his, the 3 of us standing there rejoicing and broken, knowing Sophie was interacting with us through the veil. Our exquisite friend stayed for quite some time visiting with us; under that tree. We all soaked in the extraordinary interaction. The butterfly would even flap her wings and hover over us but then land on us again. She was playing with us. The last place she attached herself was to Abby’s purple butterfly tank top. We literally had to peel her little sticky legs off of Abby to place her on the bush behind us, so we could go check-in to our hotel. This divine appointment was a confirmation of magnanimous proportions. It was supernatural, miraculous, loving and an intimate exchange with the Creator and Sophie, utilizing a significant and special part of His creation! We could have lived off of this moment in time forever but there’s more because He’s that good.
As we settled into our new home and location our first summer in TN; Russ, Abby and I had many supernatural encounters with many kinds of butterflies. We believe God allows Sophie to usher them to us, being busy about Her Father’s business while she’s living in His house.
Every visit has been unique and lengthy; not at all accidental. One day a butterfly ran errands with me in my car, sat in my lap, came into our home and spent the night. Miracle?! Absolutely! This precious creature drank from a mixture of water and a tiny bit of salt, (that a friend of mine googled) as I had no idea what to attempt to feed our delicate houseguest.
I have documented our visits through photographs and videos, as a stone of remembrance.
God wants to move heaven and earth to comfort our grieving hearts. Our Abba Father knows how hard separation is during the sorrow of earthly loss. He was separated from His One and Only Son for the reconciliation for the World. He will orchestrate supernatural experiences to occur in order to encourage us, for sure! We have to be vigilant, keep watch and be ready! There’s some mind-blowing stuff being delegated from the heavenlies, all for the King, His Kingdom and His Royal Subjects in heaven and on earth.
I don’t think it’s too much of a leap of faith to say that God has given Sophie a job, ushering her favorite beauties with wings. One of the most exciting revelations that I have received in reading a book called, “Have Heart: Bringing the Gulf between Heaven and Earth,” in the Chapter entitled “They are active,” Steve and Sarah Berger explain how our loved ones are assigned work to do in heaven not boring, monotonous, mindless busy-ness, but Kingdom work, filled with excitement and purpose. Our loved ones in heaven continue to participate in God’s redemptive plan and purpose alongside us here on earth, together we are co-laboring! They are not far off. They are very near to us. Sophie has been relocated to heaven to begin her God-given purpose there. God can deploy Sophie to do whatever He wills and we are ready to receive any communications or interactions He wants to send!
Back to the present
So in addition to navigating through the Christmas season of 2011, fragile, longing and sometimes sad; God has been reminding me that His arm has not been shortened and never will be. Don’t give up hope! Expect, believe and look for miracles. The word impossible doesn’t exist for Him. The doors He’s opening no man can shut. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Cor 1:20)
With God all things are possible because unto us HIS child was born.
Without You I would be utterly lost in darkness and despair!
Happy Birthday Jesus and Thank You!
I begged, prayed, pleaded, reasoned, debated, cried, screamed, “Oh God…I can’t do this, I can’t loose them both in the same year.” A still small voice said, “I know you can’t, but I can.” I wanted to argue, protest, to disagree but all I could do was trust , follow and believe.
As newly born babe in Christ at the age of 30; Phillipians 4:13 was one of the very first Scriptures I memorized. I called upon this triumphant verse every time I took a step of faith. Experiencing the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit working through me was extraordinary. The Holy Spirit was powerful, tangible and real.
However, this verse that led me to victory was now ushering me into extremely foreign territory.
My knees were buckling, my heart was breaking and I was doubting.
“All things Lord? You can do all things through me?”” I questioned. “I promise.” He said.
My girls were sick. Their conditions were getting worse…the valley of the shadow was getting darker.
“I can do all things.” I exhaled.
A bit of our history. About 17 mths after I became a Christian, I met Nancy Elizabeth. Because of Jesus I can say with all confidence; Nancy is my sister. Our relationship was not born of the flesh but of the Spirit. The birth of our bond was immediate, deep and refreshing. We shared everything, our thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams. She was a Proverbs 31 woman in every way; a conduit of Love, Mercy, Grace, encouragement and gentleness. Nancy led our women’s bible study in worship every week and served a small group. She encouraged me to play guitar alongside her and together we led our home fellowship bible studies in worship. Worship was her calling and it ran deeper than any song. Nancy became God-mother to my girls. She was the Fragrance of Christ to all people. As this sweet aroma dance through her life, Nancy was battling stage IV colon cancer. Never in remission during that 10 years; Nancy took every opportunity God gave her to share the good news. His Fragrance was released over the entire medical community in San Diego, because Nancy was faithful and courageous. God’s shekinah glory beamed through rounds of chemotherapy, rounds of radiation, surgery after surgery, MRI’s, CAT scans, EMS workers, ambulance drivers, medical specialists, because Nancy walked with God. She was a modern day Enoch. In Sept 2008, Nancy’s final significant in-patient surgery, Drs had discovered that a tumor had grown around the vertebras in her back and cracked them. In a 15 hour surgery, Drs. removed the tumors and the broken vertebras. Surgeons replaced what they had removed with steel metal bars and screws, which spanned the length of her back. Drs also broke one of her ribs and created a vertebrae. They placed it inside the steel metal cage to protect her spinal cord. His Fragrance got stronger. 15 days after that surgery, my beloved husband put me on a plane. I flew to California from North Carolina to be with my sister.
I spent a divinely appointed week with Nancy. I got to love her, serve her, talk to her, pray with her, and cry with her. I even begged her to take me with her, to which she smiled and whispered, “I’m not going anywhere yet.” At this point she was too weak to walk and used a wheelchair frequently. Nancy was gaunt but, glowing. The aroma continued to increase in strength. During this Period of time, Nancy had been undergoing bronchoscopies every 6 weeks. She had a tumor that was threatening to collapse her airway. These treatments extended her life. However, they were painful, challenging and the frequency of them damaged her vocal cords. This stopped her audible worship but not the worship of her soul. After my week drew to a close, heavy hearted; I returned home.
As the months passed the cancer had spread throughout Nancy’s whole body.
It was then that the fingerprints of God began appearing.
In N.C. Sophie’s heart was showing significant signs of cardiac failure. Duke Drs were stunned at the rapid progression of Sophie’s deteriorating heart. The specialists had never seen any Williams Syndrome patient’s heart deteriorate in this way. Never? Never. Sophie began diagnostic tests to find the right treatment to help repair her heart. The first procedure was a cardiac catheterization. This “somewhat risky, slightly invasive” procedure is 89% effective. Sophie’s cardiac cath Dr. was very optimistic that it would help “buy us some time” before open-heart surgery would have to be performed. We scheduled it with hope. However, the following day after the cath was performed, Sophie’s Dr. entered her hospital room. The weight of the world rest on his shoulders. The disappointment was visible and I knew, “it didn’t work did it?” I said. Breathless, tears lined his eyes, shaking his head he quietly spoke, “not one bit, I’ve never seen a patient respond this way to catheterization before. I’m so sorry. She needs open-heart surgery and soon.” As I closed my eyes to block the tears from escaping, a reminder….”I can do all things.”
Divinely appointed moments in time
In December of 2008, Russ, Abby, Sophie and I returned to CA. I needed Nancy and Sophie to meet face to face. They both were moving in the direction of eternity. Unfortunately, Sophie had very intense anxiety issues around the unfamiliar and the unknown; which is where we were traveling. We were asking a lot of her. A very long plane trip, different time zone, strange environments, new faces, our friends and family in CA wanting to pour out love on her, mixing all of this together in one trip, things could go very wrong! Her fragile heart might not withstand the stress. Hope and prayers, prepared our way. The day after we arrived in CA; 2 of my most loved people on earth met face to face for the first time ever. Sophie crawled up on the lap of her Aunt Nancy sitting, snuggling, and laughing. The blood of Jesus was their bond connected through power of the Holy Spirit. They were indeed family. God’s fingerprint stamped the moment.
“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh”
Treasures in heaven
Returning back to N.C from our Divine Christmas vacation of 2008; we were filled with resolve. We were going to find a way to repair Sophie’s heart. Meanwhile, one of Nancy’s most beloved friends and I would talk weekly about how Nancy was doing. We would cry and we would pray, asking God to extend her days on the earth. In our minds there was never a “good time” for Nancy to “go home.” There was always another holiday, birthday or milestone to celebrate. But God, knew. And on April 6, 2009, Nancy went home. The Monday before Good Friday. Her favorite holiday is Easter. This deeply resonated in my heart. Jesus’s completed work on the cross is the reason she “did” anything on earth to begin with. His resurrection gave her hope for tomorrow and the comfort of eternity. Jesus and Nancy celebrated their resurrected bodies together that Easter. I was undone. She was healed, perfect, whole, not suffering and singing audibly in heaven!!!!!
As I thought about the divine timing of God and how our family would move forward, I immediately recalled a sweet phone conversation that God appointed for me to have with Nancy, 1 year before. I said to her, “If you go before Sophie does I need you to watch out for her. Keep her with you until I get there.” Nancy laughed and said, “you know I am not going to put that baby down until you show up.” She adores the babies. Having Nancy in heaven first comforted me and my heart was being prepared.
Another fingerprint placed on a divine moment in time.
6 mths and 2 days had passed. The day had come. Sophie was scheduled for open-heart surgery. When the Dr told me of the surgery date my heart skipped a beat,”October 14,” he said. “October 14, really?” I replied.
One of the best pediatric cardiac surgeons in the U.S.A told us Sophie’s surgery was 97% effective. She wouldn’t need any other operations until she was about 13 yrs old. We had nothing to worry about. I looked at him and said, “I’m thankful for your expertise. However, I need you to be on your toes and have every resource available to you in the operating room because Sophie is unique. She will challenge you.” The surgery that was slated for 3 hrs turned into 5 1/2 hours. The Dr was challenged. Sophie’s life on earth was hanging in the balance. Sophie came out of the operating room in the late evening on October 14th, but at 5:17 am on October 15, 2009; Sophie’s heart arrested.
As my body began to tremble…I was reminded, “I can do all things.“
At this time, I will not go into details about the extensive medical procedures that were attempted over the next 3 days to revive Sophie. However, those three days led us to 12:17 am October 18, 2009. Russ and I released our precious daughter Sophie into the arms of Jesus and Aunt Nancy. Healing had found her.
October 18 is Nancy’s birthday. She was about to receive the most extraordinary birthday gift, our Sophie. Through tears, I could see them celebrating their glorified bodies together. Singing an extravagant magnificent version of Happy Birthday. Sophie had accepted her Royal invitation to King of King’s Lord of Lord’s birthday celebration!
And with that, God’s fingers popped the last piece of this intricate intimate puzzle into place. We can’t deny the precision of God’s sovereignty in all this. He didn’t waste anything. There were no coincidences. He used it all. God’s fingerprints leading, guiding, directing, ushering left a miraculous trail. We witnessed it first hand. And we certainly can’t deny the powerful truth of the verse:
I/You/We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Phil 4:13
The fingerprints of God are found among the wreckage of all our lives. His fingerprints are found in the successes and the blessings. I believe He wants us to identify them so that we would know how close He truly is during every season He ushers us through. That we would know how intimately involved He is to orchestrate such detailed events, right down to the day, hour and minutes in our case.
The truth is nobody stays on earth forever…..we’re all just passing through.
Our last earthly kisses placed on the head of our precious daughter Sophie Elise 733 days ago. She was 2 yrs 7 mths old. Sophie was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a 1 in 20,000; rare, genetic syndrome that took our family by storm. Williams Syndrome is very complex multi-layered syndrome, kinda like an onion and every time we’d peel back a layer, another tear-jerking layer was underneath.
From the day Sophie was born she was in pain and suffering. However, Sophie’s pain and suffering was not visible to the average onlooker. Sophie depicted the essence of joy, determination, courage, love, and patience in a very profound way. To interact with her was a stark contrast of her painful reality. As her Mom I watched her life of pain privately unfold before me. Behind the scenes, Sophie endured many surgeries and diagnostic testing, she was always being poked and prodded by medical professionals. It was her last surgery shown in the photo above; open-heart surgery in which God relocated Sophie from Earth to Heaven.
A Holy Moment…only God holds the matters of life and death in His hands.
Knowing this truth, didn’t make walking out of DUKE Children’s Hospital without the legs of Sophie wrapped around my hip, any easier. This was not what we, my husband and I had prayed for or envisioned. However, I felt God’s Mercy and Grace in a way that I had never experienced before and I was so grateful. Grateful?? really?? why?? because HE was near. I knew it because I didn’t pass out, while Drs and Nurses tried to resuscitate Sophie after she arrested. I didn’t throw up after Sophie’s body was dressed and taken away. And I knew it because my legs carried me out of the Ped’s Cardiac ICU to our car as if I had some strength in them. The supernatural strength of God was manifesting itself inside my heart, mind and body as my husband and I experienced our worst nightmare here on earth.
In conjunction with what God was doing in and through me; my attention was drawn to what He was doing for Sophie. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord immediately flooded my mind! Sophie’s alive and in no more pain. I was grateful Sophie was no longer suffering with Williams Syndrome. I knew that we would see her again in heaven because of Jesus! Sophie had joined with the angels, she was in the presence of the Lord God Almighty, she had received the gift of eternal life. Sophie’s not dead she’s alive! rejoice and then…
weep….After my husband and I drove to our hotel….. I cried, but it was for my own broken heart because life as our family of 4 knew it was going to change. We lived 3 hours away from DUKE in a Military town. We were too exhausted to make the drive at 5 am, it wasn’t safe. We needed a couple of hours of rest. Our 5 year old daughter, Abby was there with Grammy awaiting our arrival with her baby sister in tow, things were about to change. This change left my heart beating out of my chest. The how’s and the what-if’s flooded my mind. Change.. that I never wanted or prayed for has come.
It’s now been 733 days since that moment in time, that truth is shocking to me..like polar dip shocking.
As I start this new blog, I am in this place of remembrance. 733 days: remembering; walking forward, looking back, everyday knowing, Jesus loves me, heaven is real, Sophie’s with Him and so are other members of my family, which I will introduce you to one step at a time. And even knowing these truths and the promises of God, walking this road is hard, excruciating, breathtaking and even paralyzing. It’s also been exhilarating, supernaturally awakening and miraculous. All these emotions together… It’s like a big scrambled egg mixture somedays and I am not a huge fan of scrambled eggs!! But non-the-less this is my story, like all those onion layers I would love to share them all with you.
Our family’s recipe for change has begun to mix. It has to… you can’t have something like this happen and stay the same. I do feel at times like my heart has been pureed, placed in the blender of affliction to be poured out making an intense new flavor that’s being added to an entirely unknown recipe. A dish that I never ordered! I have been served a new flavor through earthly death and dying that I have never tasted before in my entire life. It’s an uncomfortable and awkward combination on my plate of faith, trust and love for God, that embodies bittersweetness. On occasion, it causes me to scream, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” and it leads me to question my devotion to Him. But, I find myself utterly in need of Him, relying on Him for my very next bite and swallow. It sounds a bit dramatic but if you are a parent, having to bury a child is your worst nightmare, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare and I have just done the unthinkable.
How do I survive this? How do I progress in a forward motion? My only answer right now is, progress is in tiny measurements of change. I am now presented with these very complex new flavors, ingredients include dying to my self, my will and my heart, and at the same time being made Alive. Alive to God’s self, God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s calling, God’s promises and God’s heart in a way that can only be understood as, supernatural. Dead to my flesh and Alive in my Spirit all at the same time; just like He did for Sophie. Big huge bold changes…not my specialty. This specialty, is not what I ordered, not what I prayed for, not what I wanted and I didn’t put it on the menu!
But, in tiny measurements, I am coming to a place of tasting and seeing that the Lord really is good, because as I remember; 733 days …. HIS footprints are so clearly evident. He is carrying us, our entire family through His plan for our lives. And He continues to show us that He has not forsaken us. He’s blending all these complex ingredients together and I am think I am developing new tastebuds. I am starting to feel exhilarated by His creativity and fearlessness.
I hope you will join me in my ever changing journey of faith. If we’re traveling similar paths, or tasting similar recipes my hope is that we can help encourage each other, that it’s really going to be ok. By the grace and love of God we can receive His new creations and find our purpose in them. I’ll share my recipes and you share yours.