Thanksgiving has come and gone. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. I find it amazing how quickly we can move from being completely selfless and blessing another person one moment, to feeling completely sorry for ourselves the next. I got to experience this first hand this week. My father stopped by for a brief visit to see the family and wish us a Happy Thanksgiving. He was sharing with us how he had just encountered a homeless man at the gas station. He had the opportunity to share his faith with the man and encourage him. As we were saying our goodbyes, my dad asked if we would mind making a plate of turkey to take back to the man.
CJ immediately lit up like I have not seen in a while. This is his kind of thing. He loves to feed the homeless. When he was little he wanted me to stop and give money to every homeless person we saw. Living in South Florida, you encounter a lot of homeless people in one day of driving around town. When I would pass someone by he could not understand and it became a difficult thing to explain to a small child. Eventually, I took him to the Miami Rescue Mission which is a large homeless shelter downtown. I wanted him to gain a better understanding of homelessness and I was also hoping to help him see that it was not always beneficial for us to give them money. The director of the Mission actually told CJ it was better not to give money in most instances because it only enables them to remain homeless. After that, CJ decided we needed to feed every homeless person we saw instead of give them money. So now you can appreciate why he came alive when we made the plate for the homeless stranger.
As I was making the plate CJ was standing there telling me to add more food and to not forget desert. Then he went and got a Bible he had purchased to send to troops oversees and said, "Mom, can I send this with the food?" He wrote something to the man he called 'Mister' in the Bible. He pointed out to me that the inscription page had this verse Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." He drew an arrow pointing to it so the man would notice it. I wondered how he could see that the verse applied to the homeless man but sometimes can not see that it applies to himself as well. As I watched him fill out the Bible, I realized that for that brief moment he was not thinking about Cancer at all. It was so far from his mind and he had joy on his face and peace in his heart. All was right and I thanked God for this little glimpse into his spirit. I was a happy mommy......for about 15 more minutes!
My dad left with the plate full of goodies and we set the table to eat. Suddenly, everything began to unravel. The baby decided he was not served fast enough and couldn't seem to understand why this meal should be any different than any other so he began crawling on the table reaching into the dishes and feeding himself with his hands. Did I mention he was also screaming the whole time? Brett and CJ were both repeatedly saying, "I'm not really hungry yet". Allie and I were transferring dish after dish to the table so we could eat while it was hot. Chris begins loading CJ's plate and suddenly it happens....CJ sees this mound of food he is expected to eat and his spirit just caves in. I can literally see his countenance fall, but I do my best to enforce a happy thanksgiving and remind them of all we have to be thankful for (and of how hard I worked to get this all done) Oh how pitiful I am! I wrangle the baby repeatedly and am now no longer hungry myself, but tradition calls, so I insist this is going to be a special thanksgiving. But we just continue to slide down that slippery hill of self pity. At first I thought it was only CJ feeling sorry for himself, but now I realize it was me too. He was upset he couldn't be with everybody for Thanksgiving. He was upset because he thought our tradition would be no fun without everyone else there. He was upset that he was expected to eat so much food. I was upset it wasn't going the way I had planned and pictured in my head. And the baby, well he was just plain upset. Things just did not seem to go as planned. I realized I forgot to burn the CD I wanted to play in the background as we ate. I realized in the chaos we never read the scriptures we always read before we eat. And I surely never had that moment during my meal that I encouraged all of you to have where I lovingly, unhurried gazed across the table, thanking God silently for each and every one present. The only thing I remember thinking is, where did it all go wrong? I wondered how we could go from joyfully feeding a homeless person one minute and the next we are consumed with self pity and aggravation.
The meal behind us, scriptures read, thankfulness discussed, prayers said....we then spent a good half hour letting CJ 'cry it out'. He cried for "normal". So I have spent the past two days really thinking about "normal". Actually, I have spent the past two months thinking about it because it is a word I have heard a lot since this began. I have been told to maintain "normalcy", keep things as "normal" as possible, and to try to live a "normal" life. And I have finally decided it is a myth, there is no such thing! What is normal? What I had last month, last year, five years ago? Is normal my 'comfort zone' where I am not confronted with any difficulties or big decisions? I actually believe 'normal' is one of the enemies schemes to keep me unsatisfied with my present circumstances. If I am constantly looking back trying to maintain something I had before, then I am missing what God has right in front of me, here and now. I even looked up the word in the dictionary and found words like average, regular, expected. Doesn't sound as appealing does it? We don't mind being called normal but...average...regular! In case you have not read me previous post, I mentioned that right before this happened I literally asked God to not let me live the 'easy life'. I told Him I really wanted to 'do the thing' and make it count. Sounds like a willing forfeit of average, regular and normal to me! To ask Him for normal back now seems really contradictory. And I have discovered it is a chasing of an illusion. What is normal? We are homeschoolers, is that normal? We home birthed our last baby, is that normal? We are passionately in love with Jesus Christ, is that normal? What is normal? Are you normal? I explained to CJ he has never been normal nor do I want him to be. He was a different kind of child from day one. Full of the deep spirituality and childlike faith. God never calls us to be normal in scripture. But He does call us to be set apart. He calls us to leave the wide road and enter through the narrow gate. He instructs us to make use of our different gifts given to us for different purposes. Doesn't sound much like the status quo to me.
CJ's spirits and countenance lifted and he began to play with his siblings and ask about the homeless man. He wondered if he got the food and if he got the Bible. And once again, as he focused on others I saw the joy return and cancer slip away from his mind, along with normal.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and marrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
Medical update and prayer requests:
CJ has completed phase two of his treatment. Praise God and thank you for your prayers throughout these two phases. We believe they have made all the difference in the world. As before, he will be rescanned beginning with a CT Scan on Tuesday and a PET scan to soon follow. Provided his blood counts are in a safe range, CJ will begin phase 3 of his treatment on Thursday. This is a 57 day phase that begins with a Spinal Tap and chemo at the Pediatric Ambulatory Unit followed by a visit once every ten days throughout the phase for gradually increased dosages of chemo as tolerated.
First, please pray for clear scans and complete remission of the cancer. As his chemo is increased he is at increased risk for toxicity and infection so we ask you to pray for him to tolerate the chemo well and for continued protection of his liver, kidneys and heart. We are indebted to you for your prayers and love and support. Chris recently reminded me we are just getting to the meat of the treatments so please press on in prayer and be steadfast with us. I would also selfishly ask that you pray for Chris and I as we try to balance life with cancer and yet look ahead to life without cancer. We are asking God to keep us unified in thought as we move ahead into these new phases of treatment.