The Grace of Gratitude
Philippians 4:6-9 NIV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as the “state of being grateful”. It goes on to define grateful as “being appreciative of benefits received”. For sake of clarity, lets reflect on our nation’s forefathers. Dr. Billy Graham reflects as follows:
The Pilgrim Fathers who landed at Plymouth Rock, in America in 1620, knew nothing of the bountiful prosperity that so many people enjoy today. During that first long winter, seven times as many graves were made for the dead as homes were built for the living. Seed, imported from England, failed to grow, and a ship that was to bring food and relief, brought thirty-five more mouths to feed, but not an ounce of provisions. They caught fish, hunted wild fowl and venison. They had a little English meal and some Indian corn. Yet their lives were marked by a spirit of constant thankfulness. On one occasion, William Brewster, rising from a scanty Plymouth dinner of clams and water, gave thanks to God “for the abundance of the sea and the treasures hid in the sand”.
Gratitude is at the very heart of contentment. Only when we are content do we fully experience a life filled with peace and joy! In Philippians, the apostle Paul states, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Gratitude allows us the opportunity to experience true JOY in the very midst of hard times.
On April 28, 2019, my hubby and I were blessed to see a perfect little angel brought into this world! At the age of 42, and my husband 44, God blessed us with a bouncing baby boy! After an extremely hard pregnancy, no doubt because of my age, we were so relieved when we first set eyes on our little one – he was perfect. Despite the hemorrhaging, unbearable nausea, and two-three hours of sleep for the last three months of the pregnancy, our little miracle had ten fingers and ten toes, and according to all the newborn screening, he was perfectly normal. Born three weeks early, he bounced into this world at almost seven pounds and nineteen inches long – a healthy baby boy! Liam Christian Ferguson…
We stayed in the hospital three uneventful days, and then went home. Well, we went to stay with my nephew and his wife, Joel and Alyssa, to who we are forever grateful! Everything was as expected, eating every two hours, wet and dirty diapers, and the very best snuggle time! However, the last time I, or my best friend Dawn, had experienced a newborn was seventeen years prior, so we weren’t exactly keen on what was to be “expected”. At any rate, he was doing all the right baby stuff and we were so smitten! However, there was one thing that was unusual – his breathing. My dad had mentioned to me that Liam’s breathing didn’t seem right to him and it appeared to be extremely labored. I immediately dismissed it in saying that he was breathed very rapidly when he was upset about something. At our one week check up with the pediatrician, I didn’t mention anything about the breathing because it was of no concern to me. The pediatrician did not notice anything out of the ordinary. I did however mention that I noticed he didn’t move his legs, only his toes. The pediatrician stated that it was most likely “lazy hips” and would correct on its own – not to worry.
Other people started to raise concerns about his breathing, and I started to become more aware that something wasn’t right. My husband and I were eating at Red Robin on June 20th, when we were looking at Liam’s breathing and decided to just go ahead and take him to the pediatrician, just to check it out, but we were sure it was nothing. It was a Friday morning, June 21, 2019, when I took him into the Pediatrician’s office. Our doctor wasn’t in, so we saw another doctor in the group. As soon as she looked at Liam’s breathing, she had the nurse count the respirations and discovered he was breathing over 150 respirations per minute. She called an ambulance and sent us straight to the Emergency Room. Still at this point I wasn’t afraid or concerned, because I was thinking maybe he had a respiratory infection or something of that nature. My firstborn, Mason, had respiratory issues, so it was very familiar to me. I called my hubby, Christian, and told him not to worry, but that we were just going to get the baby checked out at the ER and I would call him if it was anything serious. When we arrived at the ER, there was a team of doctors awaiting our arrival. I remember this moment as the first feeling of FEAR. They quickly escorted my eight-pound little angel to a room and began working feverishly on him. Two IV’s, oxygen cannula, blood gas testing, catheter to secure urine sample, etc. I started to panic at this point. My little angel was laying naked on an ER gurney with doctors and nurses all around the bed, working as quickly as possible. People were coming in and out of the room, discussing his condition, and stating possible causes. I immediately called Christian and told him to get to the ER ASAP because I didn’t know what was going on.
After about an hour of testing, the head doctor informed me that he had contacted a pediatric neurologist and that she would be coming by the hospital to visit with us. Dr. Charlotte Hollman, showed up at the PICU around 8PM that night. She was very forthcoming to inform us that she was very certain our little angel had a life-threatening disease, called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and that he would not live to see his second birthday. She stated that genetic testing would be needed to confirm same, but that she was certain of his diagnosis. We were DEVASTATED. It was a whirlwind of emotion, too much to even try to express in this account. However, Dr. Hollman informed us that we should be consoled by the fact that there was a treatment approved for this fatal condition in May of this year. A drug was approved by the FDA to replace the gene that Liam was missing and because of this he would have the chance of survival. This meant nothing to us, we were still devastated, in total shock that something so terrible could be wrong with our perfect little baby boy.
It took five weeks for the genetic testing to confirm his diagnosis and schedule the gene therapy treatment. We had to take him to Texas Children’s Hospital, in Houston Texas for the treatment as it was not available here in Louisiana. We were now officially the parents of a child with a clinical “diagnosis” that would forever change our lives.
As I sit here today and write this blog, I could go on and on about all of the obstacles and disappointments and days that I simply did not know if I had the wherewithal to continue – BUT GOD. During our last PICU stay in Houston, back in September, my husband and I decided it would be best for me to resign from my job and stay home with Liam as it was very possible that there would be a fatal result if he contracted the flu. Since I worked with 4thgraders, the odds were extremely high for me to bring a virus home to the baby. However, despite all of this, I have decided to share the MANY blessings that we are so thankful for!
First, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana did not hesitate to approve this life-saving treatment for Liam, even with the price tag of 2.1 MILLION dollars. They were phenomenal through the entire process. They assigned a nurse specifically for us to walk us through the entire process. I will forever be grateful to them for footing the bill to save Liam’s life!
Second, to friends and family who have gone above and beyond to support us through this inexplicable difficult time. From church friends bringing food, to my niece Jaci caring for Liam while I worked, to my teacher friends and Principal, Jeanne Medine, for being so understanding through the whole situation and giving me the permission to put my baby first. To my angel, Dawn Birdsong, who has been there every step of this journey. She has carried us back and forth to Houston, she has cried with me, she has rejoiced with Liam’s accomplishments, she has been my rock. God gave her a special love for Liam from the very beginning, because God knew I would need her to love him to get us through this.
Third, to the Medical Staff who have been involved in Liam’s care. From the amazing staff at Texas Children’s to the phlebotomist, Miss Yolanda, at the Baton Rouge General, who was able to draw blood from an infant when no one else could.
Fourth, to my husband Christian, who was smitten by Liam from the moment he was born. He has worked tirelessly to provide for us in order for me to be able to stay home with Liam. He is always on my team and has the utmost faith in me even when I don’t believe in myself!
Last, and most importantly, my Father God! All of the blessings I’ve mentioned above have come from Him! He promises us that He will never leave or forsake us and I have found Him faithful at every step of this journey! Liam has been getting stronger everyday since the Gene Therapy treatment. He will be seven months old on the 28th of this month and we are in awe of what God is doing with our little man. He has started to move his head on his own and is very close to being able to hold it up without assistance. He has also started to move his legs! Even though he has to sleep with a ventilator, and has breathing treatments around the clock, and has to be suctioned frequently, and needs mechanical help to cough, he continues to be able to breathe and eat on his own! He’s even starting to be able to scream when he is unhappy with something, where he was barely strong enough to cry before.
As I walk though this holiday season, I am keenly aware of how blessed I am! I will choose gratitude as I walk through the challenges that await. I will be content with everything God has given me and will experience Joy and Peace as the result! I may not always be “happy” with the circumstances of this life, but I can choose to be content, eternally grateful for all I’ve been given.
“The grace of gratitude is that we no longer see what is lacking and instead are in awe that we’ve been given so much.” – Billy Graham
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!