I entered my sister, Cheryl, into a contest for Woman of Faith this evening. In order to help launch her new book, Sheila Walsh, is having a contest to find a woman who has truly trusted God with all she has despite facing unsurmountable odds. I should hearing something by next Friday, March 5... until then I wanted to share what I wrote (and my Dad did all the editting), so if Cheryl isn't chosen at least the whole world will know how incredibly awesome this lady is and it is truly an honor to not only call her my sister, but my best friend!
My sister, Cheryl, has always inspired me with her faith and rock solid trust in the Lord. Indeed, Psalm 11:1, “In the Lord I put my trust.” could be her motto. During my own darkest days several years ago, she consistently took me before the Lord in her prayers, and I know helped shape my life forever. When Cheryl married her husband Bill, she knew his heart for adventure and the unexpected and knew that somewhere down the road it would impact her life. In 2006, just five months after the birth of their daughter, Avery, Bill and Cheryl uprooted their lives and moved from Dallas, Texas to Colorado Springs, Colorado. My sister had never lived anywhere other than Dallas her entire life; but, while leaving behind family and all she knew was heartbreaking, she was excited and trusting in the adventure that was set before their small family.
On November 1, 2007, a year-and-a-half after moving to Colorado, Cheryl gave birth to her second child, a very healthy boy named Billy Jr. She and her husband had just finished renovating a home a few months before and were excited to get the newest addition to their family settled in. Avery was ecstatic at having a baby brother and was so gentle and loving toward him. There was constant laughter in their home as she ran around making Billy Jr. laugh and he in turn would make her laugh, always in awe of what his big sister could do. Then, on the morning of March 29, 2008, just 5 months after the birth of Billy Jr. everything tragically changed and for a season, the laughter seemed to cease. On that morning, as Cheryl went to get her son up for the day, she discovered her beautiful baby was not breathing. After desperately trying to revive their son, Bill and Cheryl gave him to paramedics who rushed to the nearby hospital. With prayerful hope, they learned only minutes later that little Billy did not make it. Billy Jr. died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the lives of my sister, her husband, daughter and so many family and friends were changed forever.
Trusting God and his guidance, Cheryl found the strength to write and deliver the eulogy at her son’s memorial service. Her words were a deeply powerful testament of an abiding faith in God as well as a moving eulogy for the all-too-short life of Billy Jr. After the memorial, the family packed up as much as they could, left their life in Colorado and moved back to Dallas to be closer to family as they worked through their grief. Almost immediately God spoke to Cheryl in regard to the death of her son. He promised an unexplainable peace that would take months to come to pass. In the midst of the grieving process, Cheryl and Bill felt called into a ministry to work with other families suffering the same loss as they had. On the day that would have been Billy Jr’s first birthday, Cheryl and Bill launched a nonprofit organization in his name, and that organization has become SIDS America (www.sidsamerica.org). Through SIDS America, they have been able to help numerous grieving parents across the United States with financial aid and have started support groups as well.
In the midst of overwhelming grief, God called Cheryl to something greater than herself. That something would require her to invest fully and trust God to use her husband and her to minister to others. Cheryl’s faith sustained her confidence that God never leaves us lost. I have watched as this amazing woman has stepped up, not back, and through her sorrow has found a deeper sense of love, compassion, hope, and faithfulness.
Nearly two years have passed since Billy Jr. died and as we approach that memorable date, we also celebrate his little brother’s first birthday. Baby Nathan entered our world on March 25, 2009. Cheryl, Bill, and Avery found a new sense of healing in the gift and blessing of Nathan. He is by no means a replacement for Baby Billy, but a miraculous affirmation of God’s boundless love. Cheryl has faced the greatest loss a parent could ever endure, but instead of succumbing to despair and giving up, she has chosen to press on and fight the good fight. She has chosen a life directed by God and you see it manifested through her, her husband, her daughter, and most recently her son. The spirit by which Cheryl has chosen to travel this life’s journey reflects so well the words of Lamentations 3: 22-23, “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” She is truly a Woman of Faith.