Family Day of Thankfulness

Written by Julie Sparks
Published on November 13, 2018

A Note from Cynthia

It’s November and Thanksgiving is on the brain for most of us. This week, we are excited to bring you a story of thankfulness from one of our Christian Parenting readers. Julie Sparks is a mother of five who writes about some raw moments in her parenting journey and how the Lord was faithful in the hard places. She reminds us of the importance of thankfulness and how her family carries forward their heart of gratitude each year at this time.

I was encouraged by her message, and I know you will be too. Parenting can be difficult and we are so thankful to walk the road with each of you and provide encouragement in the Lord as we do it. This week, we are especially thankful for Julie and her willingness to share her journey!

One quick note: if you have not requested your copy of our Joy to Your World Advent book, do it today! There are limited quantities, and we want each of you to have the opportunity to use this Christian Parenting Resource with your families as we approach advent in about three weeks!

Many Blessings,

Cynthia Yanof


The Sparks Family Day of Thankfulness

Around this time ten years ago, we brought home our precious baby girl, Savannah. She seemed perfect to us. She was thriving and getting chubby. Although she’d had the adventure of being in the NICU for about a week, she was now a healthy little baby.

However, while we were in the hospital there were several things about Savannah that puzzled the doctors involved in her care. So, they decided to run a few tests, mainly to rule out certain things. The geneticist told us, “We are looking a number of serious genetic abnormalities or syndromes. But whatever you do, do not look it up on the internet.” The doctors said, “Do not worry. We will have results in about a week.”

So, as parents, we couldn’t help but fear what might be lurking. Against our better judgment, we went to the internet (to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). We received more knowledge and images in our head than we knew what to do with. And that started the cycle. We pleaded for days, literally on our knees. I remember seeing knee prints in the carpet on the side of my bed every morning when I forced myself to get up.

I had heard people talk about “falling to their knees in prayer for their children.” It was surreal to be experiencing it in my life. I pleaded with the Lord on behalf of my baby, on behalf of myself and my husband, but also on behalf of my other four children. It was honestly the longest two weeks of my life. I prayed so many times, “Lord, don’t let her have this or that. Lord, show me what we will look like as a family if she has this.”

As the weeks went on, I was forced to put a smile on my face. As people brought dinner and ahh-ed over my new baby, I kept my anxiety hidden (I thought so, anyway). As we were waiting on test results, Friday at 4:50 arrived, and we still hadn’t heard anything from our pediatrician. Needing to get out of the house, I grabbed Chloe, my oldest, to get Slurpees down the street.

As we pulled up to 7/11, I looked at my phone to be sure it was on. Surely, I had missed the call from the doctor. No luck. All I could think of was, at 5 p.m. on Friday, the doctor will go home and I will hear nothing until Monday!

As my daughter and I were walking out with a tray of drinks, my phone rang. It was the pediatrician letting me know that all thankfulnessof the test results were negative. I heard, “You painfully waited to hear wonderful news” and, “You don’t have to live through the images you saw on the internet, and your life will not take this turn!”

All I could say was, “Praise God!” In fact, I screamed it! I looked at Chloe and said it over and over with tears running down my face!

She looked at me and said, “Do we need to pray?”

I said, “Yes!”

Chloe had had an amazing Kindergarten teacher that year who allowed and encouraged her class to pray on their knees. Chloe set our drinks down and got on her knees outside 7/11. I followed suit. We prayed in thanksgiving for what the Lord had answered. Chloe didn’t know what it was all about, but she understood enough to know that her baby sister was going to be OK.

What I learned that day was that the Lord comes when he knows you need him. I wanted him to answer these questions earlier, or, better yet, I would have preferred never to have had these questions at all. But I would have missed having raw knees from kneeling in prayer for my family. I would have missed the rejoicing in a parking lot while people just stopped and stared. I would have missed the sweet, sweet moment with Chloe as she, at five years old, led me to the ground to humble ourselves and rejoice!

I also learned that, although those prayers were answered, we would still have many obstacles ahead of us with Savannah. That although my sweet ten-year-old didn’t have the serious genetic abnormalities or syndromes we feared, she would still be challenged in many ways as she grew and learn. And, when one person in your family is challenged, you all are. But I still know that God fully answered our prayers that day at the 7/11.

My children (prayerfully) will most likely not have a shocking testimony of coming to Christ. They have been living in the teaching of Christ since they were conceived. But what I pray they all will have, including my ten-year-old, is the testimony of seeing Jesus answer our prayers—the testimony of knowing when we go to him, the answer is in him. Knowing that, without him, we can do nothing.

This gift of challenges and questions and joy in Savannah has made my other kids amazing people. This was his plan. He gave them the ability to show compassion, to love their friends, to show kindness, and to include peers who are different. To find joy in little accomplishments. To give grace to those around them.

Every year since we received God’s answered prayer in 2008, we make a point as a family to sit down and write a letter of thankfulness to someone in our lives whom we are thankful for. The kids are precious in what they write and whom they send their letters to. I usually help Savannah. For me, it is hard to narrow down who I will write to each year. I have about one hundred letters I could write every year.

But I am reminded about whom I am thankful for beyond words: Jesus.

Thank you for your forgiveness when I doubt. Thank you for showing up when I feel I cannot. Thank you for the amazing miracles you have given me in my life. Thank you for the perfect little baby you sent me ten years ago and all the heartache, laughter, and joy that has come alongside her.

Jesus, you are my person I am thankful for on the Sparks Family Day of Thankfulness!

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