Monday, December 29, 2008

The Other Side

CJ received the third round of the increased dosage of chemo today for this phase. His blood counts were in a safe enough range to continue and they did not feel his head cold was a problem since he has not had a fever with it. His check up went well and he is at home tired and resting this evening. I enjoyed spending some time alone with him at the appointment. I especially enjoyed watching him talk to his nurse Kathy today as she administered his chemo meds through his port. As she was administering his medicine she told him that she used to get the same kind she was giving him when she had cancer as a young girl. She also told him about all the new medicines he gets that she never received because they were not invented yet. She was diagnosed with cancer at age 13 (over 35 yrs ago) and had her leg amputated because that was the protocol back then. She also experienced chemotherapy and shared much of that with CJ today. It was amazing to hear her tell her story as I watched her administer chemo to CJ. I wondered if she ever envisioned herself on the 'other side' of the chemo when she was just a teenager receiving it herself. I was amazed at how God allowed her to experience both sides of the medicine; first as the recipient and now as the giver.

We recently got to experience something similar. We found ourselves on the 'other side' of something we would have never envisioned ourselves on. Our situation was reversed. We were on the giving side first and now found ourselves on the receiving end. This has been an extremely humbling and emotional experience so I hope I can adequately explain. I might need to give a little background first though to help it make sense so please bear with me a moment to give you our 'church background before I share further.
Chris and I have had the privilege to be a part of three great churches in our 14 years of marriage. We were married at Holy Cross Lutheran in North Miami and attended there for the better part of 10 years. We have many memories here and grew immensely as young Christians during this time. Chris served as an elder here and I participated in various ministries. To make a long story short, we thought we were moving to Virginia, tearfully said our goodbyes to our church family at Holy Cross, and visited a local church on our block during the waiting period. What was supposed to be a couple months turned out to be a year. Then the acceptance and realization that we were not moving and would have to make some decisions regarding what would be our home church. We had also grown to love this little church called North Palm Baptist Church and the people we met there. Should we stay here? Should we go back to our original home church that was filled with so many memories? It was an agonizing time for us in many ways because Chris clearly sensed God saying no to both those options and yet did not seem to know what God was leading us to. And I was of no help as I was just wanting a place to call home. God did a major work in our hearts during that time, and after much prayer He then lead us to our present church Palm Vista Community Church in Miami Lakes, which I thank Him for every day! I give you this background because I know many people leave churches on bad notes but I want you to know that Chris and I love all three of these churches and the people there. God has used each one in our lives in different ways to prepare us for this trial. He has also used each one to carry us through this trial. Each one has come along side us in prayer, support, and love and we are extremely grateful.
That history shared, I think you will get a better picture of why this experience has been so humbling for us. While we were at Holy Cross we served on different ministries in different ways over the years. One of the ministries we grew to love as a family was the Thanksgiving Basket Ministry. I assisted a friend who lead it one year and then stepped in to lead it when she earned a well deserved rest after many years of leading it faithfully. This ministry provided full Thanksgiving meals and more to over 200 families in need each Thanksgiving. Most were in need financially, but many were our elders and shut-ins who were alone. After fund raising, purchasing and organizing food, building boxes and compiling lists, we would organize a mass day of pick up and then we would deliver the boxes to the ones who could not pick up or we chose to bless spontaneously. This was my favorite part! I loved piling in the car with the boxes and the kids and delivering a box to a needy family. Sometimes we would spend time with the people and I know those are memories my kids and I will have forever.
Another ministry we grew to love and participated in was Christmas Caroling. At Holy Cross, we would pile in cars and split into 4 or 5 or 6 different groups and then caravan throughout North Miami and Christmas Carol at specific homes where our elders, shut-ins, and sick were. We would pile in their yards and sing carols to them. I loved doing this and when we attended North Palm Baptist we did not hesitate join them as well. This was a little different because we experienced caroling throughout our own neighborhood to our very own neighbors.
Okay, now for the humbling part. I don't know how often a person gets to stand on both sides of the same ministry like we experienced. Often, a person will go back and bless others in the very area they were blessed in their time of need. I have experienced that myself and it is a full circle and rewarding experience. But this was different! God brought us from the side of giving to the humbling side of receiving. That is exactly what our family experienced this year when Holy Cross showed up at our home to deliver not one but two Thanksgiving Boxes. I can not adequately express the range of emotions we experienced. Never, in all the years we spent at Holy Cross, all the homes we delivered boxes to, would we ever have dreamed we would be on the receiving end of that ministry. It is a full circle like I have never known. It went beyond receiving a blessing for me; it was a needed lesson in humility. God brought me to my knees in repentance and removed the scales from my eyes with that one act of kindness. I lead and loved that ministry, but in my heart I often judged who should and shouldn't receive a box. After spending hours upon hours raising funds, making calls, collecting food, organizing, filling boxes, etc., I would then judge when someone showed up to pick up a box driving a certain type of car or wearing a certain type of clothes. I would judge when we would get to the address of delivery and pull up to a beautiful home with nice cars in the driveway. I honestly and regretfully would! And I am so thankful God allowed this to happen so I can stand on the other side of that box and receive an undeserved gift for the simple fact that God decided to bless my family through this church and their willingness to serve others. I hope as you are reading this you can feel even a tenth of the emotion I felt that day. Picture yourself on the other side of the window the next time you hand money out of your car to a homeless person. Picture your children on the receiving side of the gift when you donate toys to a local charity. Please hear me.....you never know when you will be on the other side of the blessing! It was the farthest thing from my mind when I filled boxes with food or sang silent night to a sick person. I told you before in a previous post, I believe God is teaching me a deeper level of authenticity. I don't know any better way to experience it than that. To stand and receive what you once gave. To be able to know both sides; the blessing and the need. To be able to empathize in a deeper way than I ever thought possible. It was a humbling and a painful reflection of my heart; but it was full of compassion and mercy for God to do that to me.
To drive the point home and be sure He completed His sanctifying work in my heart in this area, God brought both of these churches to our home to Christmas carol to us. North Palm came early in the month and sang to us in the very neighborhood we walked with them last year at Christmas. Did I mention humbling yet? Then, this week, 100 people from Holy Cross stood in our yard and sang songs of joy to our family. It was all I could do to stand there and hold back tears as the very group of people we used to go caravaning around town with stood in our yard and sang Silent Night. My heart was anything but 'silent' that night. It was alive with repentance, confession and then filled with God's bountiful grace and mercy as once again, I stood on the 'other side' of the blessing.
Thank you Lord for this experience. I know this will make me a better servant and I will be better equipped to serve your people faithfully because of it. I will always be able to picture myself on 'the other side'.

On the receiving end:

Thanksgiving Boxes.............. Christmas Carolers 2008
On the giving end:
Christmas Caroling in 2005 with Holy Cross..CJ Singing Carols to the sick



Thanksgiving Basket Ministry 2003 at Holy Cross
Allie, Brett, CJ and daddy filling and delivering baskets

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I understand both ends of giving and receiving and sometimes receiving is the hardest thing to accept. I know God has allowed us to grow through these things and that is why He does allow them. Our prayers are with you every day and we are praying not only for the healing but for the strength you need while it is coming. Wishing you God's best blessings for a healthy, prosperous and very Happy New Year.

Love from Mary B. and family

Noah said...

Hi C.J.,
It looks like you had a great Christmas and I just want to wish you
a happy new year. I hope you have a great day.Do not forget that we are always praying for you. We all miss you.
Love, Noah

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn, God is truly blessing you in so many ways, I think that the reason He is able to do this is because you seem to have truly surrendered to Him. You have surrendered in your faith of giving and now in your faith of receiving. As I read your post I believe I can understand a bit of your feelings. Like you I seem to enjoy much more the giving part, I suppose that is why I chose my career and to be a mom. However, you are so right in the receiving part of this, it is and has been a part of me that is much more difficult to accept. Like you I believe that if we allow God and ask God to guide us, He will, and in the most astonishing ways. Thank you again for your openness and for sharing your thoughts with us, you truly have a gift of writing and sharing your experiences. May God continue to reign in your mind,heart and soul. Wishing you and your family a wonderful New Year. Love, Wilma

Anonymous said...

Hi, Dawn. When I read your posts I see God. But like Wilma said, we are able to see Him in your life because you are living a surrendered life to Him. He can be in control whether we want Him to or not, but when we welcome Him into our lives and trust Him...WOW! I know it seems like a no-brainer, but why is it that we (I) struggle with that?
He provides for us in every way. He is growing you and molding you into His image, the way you were truly created to be. Even though sometimes it may be painful..kind of like refining gold...the end result makes it worth it. Especially because He is with us through the fire. We are so precious to Him.
In the words of a great poet, "God has a reason".
Thank you, Dawn, for reminding me to trust Him.
Janet S

CeCe said...

Wow. you guys looked so young in the pictures! The little picture of Brett looks like Corey (untill I made it bigger)! I am so happy that you guys had a good Christmas! HAPPY NEW YEAR! I miss you guys a lot!
CeCe

Anonymous said...

Dawn,

I remember your churches and your family's journey through them. The reason, I believe it all worked out this way, is because in the long run, you always looked up for your answers!

And yes, we can be so judgemental and not even know we are being judgemental. We can actually be judginig in the mist of trying to do something for Our Lord, like you mentioned. I have caught myself so many times. But, I often wonder how much I have allowed myself to get away with because the thought was a quick one and it was not heard by any one else. Lately, I have realized that my thoughts are ALWAYS heard by the only One that matters!

Keep striping away your fleshy layers as Our Lord is molding you so beautifully. Boy, it is amazing what He can do with a cracked pot!

On another note, my heart aches today for you, your family, and CJ. I got the privlidge of taking Allie and Brett to the movies today. One of our family things we do every few months or so. I just kept thinking about CJ and how I wished he was with us instead of having to get chemo injections. I kept thinking back to all the times we went to the movies together, never knowing we would one day be going without CJ because he has cancer and is getting treatments. And I thought about you next to your son as they give him his chemo. The mom that doesn't even like to give her children vaccinations, has to now watch a poison cure be put in her son. Dawn, I am sorry you have to go through that. Just keep looking up! CJ will heal and be a great servant! I know CJ and he is a giver and helper naturally. With this experience he will definitely be like that nurse or someone else along the way that helped with the diagnosis, therapy, and/or treatment. I love you guys.

Aunt Jackie

Enzo said...

Dawn,

How great to be blessed back. I remembered that the first weekend that CJ was in the hospital all 3 of the pastors showed up which I thought was a great testament that you can be in a church family, leave and still be close and show love for each other. I always remember how much all of you loved doing the Christmas caroling, the Thanksgiving baskets and how much CJ and the kids used to like to go to the City Mission and Nursing Home type places.

I was thinking of what Pastor Al said in that sermon about when you get a blessing like he did when the principal of the school went to bat for them to have church on Sunday.....do you deserve it?.....have you earned it?....no so don't feel hard on yourself.....just accept with faith that this is God's love for you. Something like that. I can't quite explain it like he did but I know that everyone here (including me) says it is harder to receive but it shouldn't be. We are not receiving blessings because of our works, our good thoughts, how we did things so don't even worry about that. Just accept the gift and give praise to God and go from there.

I love you

Mom

P.S. Like Jackie we all felt kind of sad not to have CJ with us at the movies. We felt short a person at all times. I also was thinking of Dawn at the hospital with him and thinking how hard that is. I'm glad we were able to take Brett and Allie for awhile though.

Enzo said...

P.S.

Do you think you could find us all another one of Al's sermons to listen to?

Mom

Anonymous said...

Chris & Dawn,

I just this year was involved I delivering food baskets at my church as I took over for an elder who need the rest. I also found myself judging people not thinking that there were other reasons why GOD had sent me to them or for that matter them to me. Thank you for sharing your story I was finding it hard to hold back tears as I asked GOD to forgive me for judging others.

I am so glad to know that CJ is doing well. My family continues to pray for CJ and we wish you and your entire family a safe, prosperous and healthy new year.

May God continue to bless you all.

Your brother in Christ,

Chris H.

Break the Mold said...

Chris,

Thank you for your humble comment. Sometimes when the Lord leads me to share these stories I really can not figure out why. But then when someone shares a testimony like yours I realize God is working in a bigger fashion than my puny mind can fathom.
Thank you for being humble and open. I beleive your openess will also encourage others as well.
Happy New Year,
Dawn and Chris

Anonymous said...

Dawn,

Your a humble woman of God and your children will rise up and call you blessed. (Prov. 31:28) I can hear the words of our Lord saying to you, "Well done my good and faithful servant". (Mat. 25:21) Thank you for positioning yourself to receive the grace the Lord is showering upon you during this season. Not only are you being bathed in His grace, but the sprinkling that comes off of you and lands on us, is the grace he is imparting on us with encouragement through your humility. Thank you for encouraging us to live a humble and transparent life, that honors the redeeming work Christ has done on the Cross.

With much love and respect, Ody