Sunday, November 30, 2008

What is Normal?

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."

Matthew 7:13

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.


Anonymous said...


All I can say is thank you. Thank you for opening up your life to all of us and continually coming back to God and his goodness. It so reminds me of the Psalms when you write. Like David who opens his heart with all it's struggles to the Lord and then ends with lifting his eyes to the heavens and acknowledging God is still good and is doing something in the midst of it all far greater than we would have planned. I'm sorry for the challenges and yet know that God is showing up each and every time to bring you comfort or insight into what He is doing in all your lives. Our prayers continue to be with you and CJ.


Anonymous said...

Please know that we are praying for you and holding you all up to God. God is a good God, all the time, all by Himself. Sometimes when we try to help Him we mess things up. Lord, give us wisdom to know what to do at which time and what to say to uplift and when to remain silent. Lord, give us Your peace in all situations; even when we feel it is hopeless or we don't see anything happening. Let us know that You are always there, always doing what is the best for us and even when we don't understand to know that You know what's best and that You are still in command and that these cancers and unknown obstacles are but an ash in Your fire and that You have already set in place the plans you have for us. God bless you, Dawn and family, as you deal with this and God bless you especially, CJ. We love you. Please know that you are loved very much and covered with prayers from all over the world and that you are blessed. Thanks for the things we hear about you and please know that you are God's annointed for such a time as this and that He is using you in a special way to touch people that may never have been touched by Him; because of you. Thanks for being a special young man and again, know that you are loved.
With love and prayers,
Mary B. and family
Nashville Cowboy Church

Anonymous said...

Dawn and CJ,as I read your post and your desire to feed the homeless, I smiled because we do the same thing. We carry a small plastic grocery bag in our vehicle that contains little goodies, like crackers, small cereal box, small container of apple sauce, sandwich. Just a few small items. We also include a tract and a small book of John or the New Testament. We give this to any person in need that we come across, ask their name and tell them Jesus loves them....then we pray for them.
CJ, Jesus loves you and so do we!!
You are being prayed for in our home daily!

Tammi said...

Dear Dawn & CJ & Alibrandi and Chris & Brett & Corey:
I was so happy to speak to Allie on the telephone yesterday because what I heard in her voice and
in the background through the telephone was a lot of joy and laughter and happiness going on in
your house. I could hear her giggling at the boys who were laughing hysterically with their
mother who were apparently spinning their baby brother around and around in their Daddy's
office chair. The very same chair you are probably sitting on now as you read this comment. I
know that sometimes are so hard for you all and that the first Thanksgiving in this new
"above-average normal" was going to be a tough one, and it was heavy on my heart as it
approached and I prayed and prayed for a wonderful family time for you all. How special and
cherished this past Thanksgiving must have been for you, even through all the difficulties, I mean
seriously, do you ever get the chance to just sit with your family and have Thanksgiving dinner?
To sit with thee most important people in your lives whom you love above all else? They were
there at that table giving thanks to God and celebrating Thanksgiving. That seems super special
and a better tradition to me than anything else! Probably the first new Christmas like that will be
different and better as well, but these new "normals" are only temporary and the times when the
kids giggle and make each other throw up by spinning themselves around in an office chair are
the permanent-ever lasting times. I love you all so much and I miss you too.
Love Always
Aunt Tammi
P.S. - I'm glad CJ and Dad fed the Homeless person because that was probably an Angel that
GOD sent for someone to entertain on Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

Dawn, it sounds like you had a "normal" meal for Thanksgiving with 4 young children. Did you remember to have them write what they are thankful for? I'm still waiting for 2 of our family members to give me their list of what they are thankful for.
CJ, I looked up the word normal in the dictionary. This is what I found: conforming to the standard or the common type.
Do we want to conform to the standard or the common type or do we want to be conformed to God's standard and the likeness of Jesus? God is in control and he is changing you to His likeness. It's difficult for us to understand the way He is doing it, but it is for your good and His glory.
Isaiah 55:9
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

And remember, CJ, He has a plan for your life, and it's better than we can imagine. The plan He has for you is not to harm you. His plan is to give you hope and a future.

And, CJ, no, you are not normal! I don't want to be normal either. We want to "Break the Mold", right?

We love you! We are praying for you and your family.

Break the Mold said...


Thanks for the post. It made me laugh. Yes I am sitting in that very chair. I did not realize you heard that. We were spinning the baby really fast and then putting him down to see if he could walk straight and he would stumble and fall. It was just like a cartoon because his eyes would go in circles trying to balance. I would have never done that to my first or second baby....but Brett and Corey...poor things.
We did have fun spinning the boys for a little while until daddy said "it is all fun until someone gets hurt" and we had to stop. I just had to laugh because of how many times I have said that.

Janet...thanks for reminding me that we are trying to "Break the Mold", not fit into it. It was right in front of my face and I missed it.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Then you will be able to test what God's will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

Anonymous said...

Dear Dawn,

I am again amazed with your post this week. First letting you know I am praying for CJ and your family, my family is praying for CJ too, God is in control. You must be so proud of CJ, how he is able to think of others first and their needs, it is absolutely beautiful. In my opinion today’s normalcy is very far from what God wants us to be, do or simply which road does he wants us to walk through, you are in the right path, you are walking through the narrow road that leads to eternal life. I love to read this blog, I really enjoy it, and I find answers to my questions everyday as I do in my bible, I find answers in your wisdom that comes from God. Thank you for sharing your experiences, instead of you thank us we should thank you (the family) for being part of our life. I will continue to pray, and pray on my knees for CJ and your family.

With love,


Anonymous said...

Hello George's
Thank you for taking the time to keep all informed of your daily events. Karen, Lindsay & I enjoy reading them. I was talking to Colleen and told her how it was a true ministry and how we are able to feel connected. We love you all and miss you dearly. Hope to see you all soon. Praying for healing, peace,strength, comfort,understanding, knowledge and grace.
Love, Uncle Terry

Anonymous said...

Dear friends;
from a far away land we still think of you and are very thankful that you had a thanksgiving day and you were together...what a gift regardless of "how" it was you were all together. Some times "being together" is not what we think or envision but nevertheless, it is a gift and I know that you, as well as we rejoice that our heavenly father has so kindly granted us that be with our families.
We love you and miss all of you
Claudia for the Abeggs

Anonymous said...

Dawn, thank you for taking the time to keep us updated with your walk with God. God has given you a wonderful gift of writing. As I read your post I feel like I'm in your home and I can feel the emotions that you are having. I laugh, I pray, I cry than pray again. May God continue to guide you and Chris in this journey. I will pray for CJ's treatment and for those that are involved in his medical care. Love, Wilma

Tammi said...

How funny . . . how many times growing up had Poppa Jerry said that to us? - - "Stop before someone gets hurt!" - but did we ever stop? I don't think so (ha ha). I'm pretty sure we didn't stop doing whatever the thing was until I made Jackie cry or scream or something. I'm only kidding. I love you. I hope everything goes well today for you and CJ.
Love, Tammi

Pam Standley said...

Hi, Sweet Dawn: One day you should take all of these letters you write to us, the people who anxiously await your updates, and put them in a journal and publish them. You are truly an inspiration, and far more than "normal", whatever that is! You have a beautiful capacity to share your thoughts and feelings so well. Thank you for sharing your lives. Prayers will continue for all of you. Love you, Pam

Anonymous said...


Thank you for "keeping it real". It is so nice and refreshing to hear someone "work it out". Starting with your sorrows and frustrations then working it through from a biblical point of view. Flesh vs. Obedience. I really appreciate this piece and can relate in many ways. Thank you for you honesty and humility. You are helping so many of us by your willing to be so open. You have no idea how many of us battle our minds and emotions. Most of us, many of the time allow our minds to win. But, when we really turn to scripture and what we are called to do, suddenly things look different. I love you sis.