Monday, March 30, 2015

Happy Fourth Birthday, Emory!

Four years ago, this little girl made me a mama.

Stephen looks so young!!

I fell in love with Stephen in a completely new way as I watched him expertly change our baby's diaper for the first time, and it happens again every time he speaks so kindly and tenderly to our babies.  We love learning how to be parents at every new stage Emory enters.


We started our day by celebrating with a birthday donut.  Pink with prinkles, of course.

We went to iJump with our friends.  Emory tripped over the sidewalk on the way in and ate the pavement.  Poor kid.

And then we had lunch and cookie cake.

The kids played and played until we got tired and went home.

The girls painted a little.

A sweet friend brought us dinner, and then we finished off the night with a little ice cream from Andy's.


We did our first random act of kindness in honor of Sam.  We left ten dollars for someone else to enjoy some Andy's ice cream.


Here are pictures of Emory through the years...


My precious Emory,

You are kind-hearted, patient, compassionate, stubborn, hilarious, and tough.  You love fiercely.  You are a sweet big sister to Harper and Sam and a sweet daughter to Daddy and me.  I couldn't be more proud of you.  You ask at least a thousand questions a day.  You make me think about things I have never thought about before.  Three sounds like a little kid, but four sounds like such a big girl.  I treasure every day I have with you, and I can't wait to discover your talents and passions with you.  You still mispronounce a lot of words and say things in your own silly way, and I love it.  I love you with my whole heart.

I am so blessed and honored for you to call me Mama.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Benefit Lunch

Our amazing friends put together a lunch yesterday so we could visit with our Tyler friends who weren't able to come to Sam's funeral and to raise money for his medical expenses.  Lisa did an amazing job coordinating everything!  We have been completely overwhelmed by the support, both emotional and financial, we have had from our family and friends since we got Sam's diagnosis, and especially since he was admitted to the hospital and then his passing.

The dudes got together Friday to smoke some awesome brisket and sausage.

Lots of friends brought food, filled cups, cut desserts, served food, cleaned up, and hugged our necks.

There was a bounce house set up for the kids to play on.

And everyone could make a bracelet in memory of Sam.  Such a sweet idea!

Even Grandaddy and Daddy made one!

Stephanie shared some sweet words about our family and Sam.

We are so well loved, y'all!!  Sincerely, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for every text, Facebook message, call, visit, hug, prayer, and penny given.  We have been so incredibly blessed by our family and friends.  The financial burden we are still bearing from Sam's medical expenses is much less than we ever anticipated when he was first admitted back in December.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Honoring Sam Through Random Acts of Kindness

I have been feeling convicted about the way I use my time probably since last summer.  I finished my master's degree last May, and after that, I was so unbusy (I totally just made up a word).  I was about halfway through my pregnancy with Sam, Emory had just turned three, and Harper turned two in June, so I was tired.  So many of my days were just about checking items off my to-do list, preparing and eating meals, and meeting the girls' and Stephen's basic needs.  I wasn't doing any of this joyfully or enjoying my time with my family.  I was just doing.

When Stephen and I talked about New Year's resolutions in December, I decided mine was to spend my time more purposefully this year.  This was something God has been nudging me toward for almost a year, see?

Almost immediately after Sam passed away, I felt like I needed to be doing something to honor him.  I know it will help me grieve, and I want to share his story.

So many times during Sam's hospital stay, Stephen and I talked about trying to always show kindness to people because you just have no idea what someone might be going through.  So many people ask, "How are you?" as just a casual greeting.  But if people answered honestly, I think we would all be shocked.  I'm rambling on about all of this to share an idea I am completely stealing from another mom (with her permission!) whose baby also had CHDs and is now in Heaven.  If you follow Jen Hatmaker on Facebook (and if you don't, you should!), you probably saw this post:

A Hatmaker follower was the recipient of a random act of kindness done in the honor of a little boy named Owen.  The note included a hashtag that I looked up on Instagram.  From there, I found Owen's mommy's blog.  I spent hours over a few days looking at all the pictures with that hashtag, reading Owen's story, and reading about the random acts of kindness in his honor idea.  I was so intrigued.  I felt like this was something I wanted to do also.

So, on the 22nd of every month (in honor of Sam's birthday on September 22), I am committing to doing a random act of kindness to honor Sam. I turn 30 on April 28, and I plan on doing 30 random acts of kindness between now and then, also.  I would love, love, love (love) it if other people joined me in doing this.  No act of kindness is too small.  I guarantee no matter what kind of day someone is having, whether they are walking through a valley or on a mountaintop, receiving kindness is always appreciated.  Someone in front of us in the drive-through line at Starbucks paid for our order years ago, and I'll never forget that.  You can buy a $5 gift card and leave it in a conspicuous place for someone to find.  You could mow your neighbor's yard, send someone flowers, bake something delicious and deliver it, run an errand for someone, or tape a dollar bill to a vending machine.  You can google ideas.  We will be including a small card to share Sam's story and raise awareness about CHDs.  If you would like to, snap a quick picture of your random act of kindness and post it to social media with the hashtag #samuelstephenbryan so we can spread Sam's story and raise awareness about CHDs.

You can download the RAOK cards here to print on your own.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happy Six Months, Sam!

My sweet Sam,

Today you would have been six months old.  I know that there is nothing here on Earth that you need, and you are more alive in Heaven than we are here, but I sure miss you.  I'm disappointed that we don't get to experience all the things we would have been doing with you now.  Today I would have put you in a white onesie, stuck a six month sticker on you, and spent minutes and minutes trying to get a perfect picture of you while your sisters "helped."  You would probably be getting pretty good at sitting up on your own.  We would have been introducing solid foods to you and laughing as you made faces at the ones you didn't like.  You would be smiling and laughing at us and Emory and Harper.  You would be learning to play with toys.  You would be wearing the clothes hanging in your closet and folded in your drawers, and you would always be wearing a hat.

You are so loved.  There are countless people who think about you daily.  There are so many people doing so many things to honor your life and glorify our Lord.  Your life mattered, and it always will.

I love you, Sam, and as always, I am so honored to be your mama.


The first few weeks after Sam passed away, I thought that if I had enough faith or the right kind of faith, I wouldn't be that sad about Sam being gone because I know that he's in Heaven.  But the truth is I'm sad about our present lives.  I always feel incomplete because my whole family isn't here.  I know we will spend eternity together, though.

We have gotten several letters from the Texas chapter of the Children's Heart Foundation notifying us of the people who have donated in Sam's honor.  We are so incredibly humbled and thankful that so many have chosen to honor Sam's life in this way and support the funding of CHD research.  I know people donated before we figured out the way to show that the donation was in Sam's honor, and we haven't forgotten their generosity.  We received another letter today.  Because of the generosity of so many, the friends and family of Sam are being recognized as silver chapter sponsors.  Sincerely, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

One Month

It's been one month that Sam has been gone. It's been one month since I held him, prayed over him, whispered in his ear that I love him.  In some ways it feels like it's been years, and in some ways it feels like no time has passed at all. In the past week, I think it has become more real to Stephen, Emory, and me that Sam died.  He isn't coming back.  On this side of heaven, I won't ever feel his fingers around mine, see his eyes twinkle, or smell his sweet head while he nuzzles into my neck.

Everything reminds me of Sam right now, and I wish that would never end.

I felt like for some reason I said his name a lot when I was talking to him.  "Time to change your diaper, Sam."  "Are you hungry, Sam?"  With the girls, I don't remember speaking their names as much.  I joked with Stephen the other day that we should have named Sam something less popular, because I hear people calling the name Sam all the time.  One of the days we were at Disney, I remember thinking to myself, "I'm having a pretty good day," and the thought hadn't even left my head and a mom called her son's name, Sam.

The four of us talk about Sam a lot.  Emory asks a lot of questions and says Sam is with Jesus and God in heaven or that she's missing him.  Harper doesn't get it as much.  She's only two...and she's Harper.

The girls and I met some friends at Jumpin' Jacks this morning.  When I got in the car, "Stronger" by Mandisa was playing.

He knows this is going to make you stronger
The pain isn't going to last forever
And things can only get better

On the way home, I turned up Matt Maher's "Because He Lives" as loud as I could stand it.

I'm alive, I'm alive
Because He lives
Amen, Amen
Let my song join the one that never ends

The Lord is alive.  Sam is alive, and I'm alive all because He lives.  He never ends, Sam will never end, and I'll never end.  My treasure is stored up in heaven, and one day I'll be with Sam again.

Isaiah 49:16 says, "I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."  From before time began, the Lord has had Sam engraved on the palms of His hands.  Sam, you are forever engraved on my heart.  I am so honored to be your mama.  I love you forever, my sweet boy.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rainy Days

Well, it's raining here.  A lot.  Saturday was beautiful, so I took the girls to the park.

Emory ran into a girl from her Mother's Day Out class, so she and the girls played together for a good long time.

Yesterday and today, it rained and rained.  I saw an idea on Pinterest for kids to practice writing in shaving cream, so we busted out some cookie sheets today and smeared on some shaving cream.  

I thought keeping it all contained on a cookie sheet sounded like a brilliant plan, but the cookie sheets didn't stay in place.  I stuck some rug sticky tape on the bottom of each tray, and that helped.

Apparently a little goes a long way.  We used the rest of Stephen's can of shaving cream.  Oops!

Emory practiced writing her name.

I'm hoping and praying for a little sunshine later this week so we can get out and play!

This past week has been pretty rough for the four of us because we started getting back to real life and our reality is pretty hard to handle. Emory is struggling with understanding that heaven isn't a temporary place, and Stephen and I are praying about how to help her.  One of the hard things about losing Sam is that everyone we love lost Sam too. Please continue to pray for our family.