Thankful amid a high-stress year

A fresh take. That?s what I wanted to accomplish when I first began thinking about my topic for this month?s Lipstick and Pearls. It was obvious what I had to write about. November is all about Thanksgiving. But I wanted innovation. Some quick-witted adeptness.

This is what I came across instead: ?They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty,? wrote William Bradford in ?Of Plymouth Plantation.?

The heroes and heroines?the pilgrims?weren?t looking for ingenuity. The pilgrims were celebrating a bountiful harvest?something, I?m sure, that wouldn?t be considered so bountiful in our modern standards?and giving thanks to God for that which they had received.

It?s simple. Beautiful, really. And the story doesn?t need to be altered.

And so I rethought my strategy. Why did I want to be forward-thinking anyway, especially when I have such a wonderful story of traditional Thanksgiving to tell? I?m through being unconventional?at least for now.

So here?s my story of thanksgiving:

For the past two years, Brad and I have struggled with the illness of our firstborn, Gracelyn. Knowing there was something wrong, but not having a diagnosis, led us down many scary roads full of hospital stays, lab work, blood transfusions and terrifying possibilities.

At one point, our doctors even suggested we have a bone marrow test completed to search for signs of leukemia. It seemed everyone?even those skilled in the medical profession?were grasping at straws.

And as a mom, there was nothing more frustrating than watching my little girl scream through endless tests, all the while being asked to help hold her down.

During the first year, I spent the majority of my free time in frenzied research, desperate to find the answers that continued to elude. I also spent time in self-pity, always wondering why my daughter was sick.

And I prayed. And our church prayed. And our family prayed. My prayers ranged from thanksgiving over an apparent improvement?no matter how small?to frustration over the lack of answers, to anger that again involved self-pity. I?m so glad God has more patience with me than I do with him?.

And then, right before we had a breakthrough, Brad and I were blessed with the arrival of our second daughter, Jemma. She entered the world on a stormy May day, and then three days later, she was back in the hospital, this time as a visitor. Gracelyn was in desperate need of a blood transfusion.

Gracelyn?s hemoglobin levels had again dipped into the six-range?half of the low end of normal. After her transfusion, her levels rebounded to 10. But we knew we needed answers. And so we returned to our hematologist we had met the year before at KU Medical Center.

She thought she knew the answer?but I didn?t like it. It meant that Gracelyn would never be cured. Sure, she could have the symptoms eradicated through surgery, but I still didn?t want her to always have a disease.

But sure enough, a complicated lab test proved our hematologist?s theory correct. Gracelyn had hereditary spherocytosis?a disease of the red blood cells. And removing her spleen was the only option for a case as severe as hers.

After the diagnosis, I found myself in a mix of relief, anticipation and worry. Even though splenectomies are performed daily, I didn?t want my 2-year-old to go under the knife. But the choice was relatively simple.

While Brad and I didn?t like the thought of our child having surgery?a surgery with risks, just like any other surgery?we didn?t want Gracelyn to spend her life in an un-well state. We wanted her to feel better.

So after a couple months of waiting, surgery was upon us. Our family gathered in Kansas City to support us. And our wonderful pastor, Gaylord, and his wife, Peggy, also traveled to KU Medical Center to spend the day with us. We filled the waiting room as the four-hour surgery commenced.

And then it was over. My fears that my daughter would die on the operating table were gone. In their place, relief flooded my soul. God was good. Our daughter would live another day. And at that moment, that?s all I wanted.

Now, several months later, we are still thrilled with the results that came with the removal of a spleen?one that was three times its normal size.

Gracelyn is renewed. Every day following her surgery, she would proclaim, ?I feel better, Mommy!? She has energy. She has color in her cheeks. She has gained a pound since her surgery?something she didn?t do in the full year between her first and second birthdays.

And her hemoglobin levels are in the normal range for the first time in her life. At last check, her numbers were 12.2, where normal is 12 to 14. And we are so thankful.

Gracelyn will always have three reminders of this ordeal on her belly, though she probably won?t remember much of what she went through. But Brad and I will.

And we will remember how God used a surgeon and modern medicine to bring healing to our daughter, and how we have much to be thankful for, as we are well-recovered in health and strength and all things in good plenty.

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