Lenten Devotion, Thursday, March 10, 2022

Published March 10, 2022 by Mark Gribble

Finding Joy in the Journey

As many of you know, our daughter, Lily, was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January of 2021. That entire year was spent painstakingly eradicating the disease and then preparing her body for a bone marrow transplant. The bone marrow transplant doctors explained the process to us this way: We take these kids' bodies through just enough chemotherapy and radiation to take them to the brink of death, and then bring them back to a much healthier place on the other side.

That year, we saw our daughter cry, laugh, suffer, shine, backslide, almost give up, persevere, curse, sing, inspire, laugh, and endear herself to others through more adverse conditions than anyone should have to endure. Leukemia struck a 14-year-old girl and robbed her of the rest of her childhood. Leukemia stole time together from Mark and Jennifer as spouses. Leukemia denied our son, Ty, parental guidance and nurturing in the last year before he left for college. Leukemia denied our family dinners together around the table. These were all heavy prices to pay, and yet we're told God works for the good in all things.

Where was God for us throughout this process? Those first days, we peered through the sudden darkness of our lives, desperately looking for a light for our path. We didn't know what the future held for our little girl, and then you lifted us up. God was working through our church family to swoop in and care for all of us.

Leukemia gave us a support network we didn't know we needed. The outpouring of love, cards, food, gifts, support, hugs, and prayers sustained our family and we will be eternally grateful.

Leukemia gave us medical professionals that truly carried our hearts this year including Dr. Eric Schafer, Nurses Mimi, Joy, Jodi, Chantelle, PT Danielle, Child Life Specialists Allegra, Audrey, the TCH puppy handlers... and so many more.

Leukemia gave our son the opportunity to give his sister the true gift of life. It's a bond that will always connect them.

Leukemia allowed us to give back. Team Lily shirts have raised thousands of dollars for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Curing Kids Cancer. Our family has served on parent panels training new bone marrow transplant nurses at Texas Children's Hospital. We've encouraged those who work at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center with telling our story and letting them know that the work they do every day matters. We've help spread the word about the benefits of blood donations. One day, we hope to improve the odds of future bone marrow transplant candidates finding their match by encouraging people to join the bone marrow donor registry. We were lucky Ty was a match. Many other families aren't so lucky.

Leukemia gave us hope for Lily's future. She is and has always been a bright light in this world, and she will continue to shine. God has a plan for her life and while this is not what any of us ever dreamed of, we continue to lean on our faith.

Our world was turned upside down and then inside out without any warning. It's impossible to surmise that experience into anything succinct. The best we can do is that through it all, we tried to find joy in the journey.

Mark Gribble is a 20+ year member here at South Main and active in the FYF Sunday School Community. He and Jennifer are celebrating 25 years of marriage in 2022 and are blessed with two wonderful kids, Ty and Lily.