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
Allie, Brett, CJ and daddy filling and delivering baskets