I pray that somehow in all the business of the season, the demands for your time and energy, and the temptation to get caught up in the routine of it all, you were able to remain focused on the only lasting gift we will receive at this time of year. One of the things I reminded my kids this year on Christmas morning right before we set out to wake up the baby and begin our Christmas morning routine and eventually tear into the presents awaiting them, was that every gift they were about to open would eventually ruin. Most would be gone by the end of the year even.....broken, lost, rusted, replaced. But the true gift of Christmas....The fact that God sent His Son to earth in human form to live and die for us would never ruin. It is ours to keep...forever!
I had personally lost focus of the joy of that gift as I was overwhelmed by pain from the loss I had recently experienced. I was focusing on what was taken from me and continuing to be taken from so many families I continue to meet that I had to cry out like the Psalmist, "Restore me to the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing Spirit to sustain me." Psalm 51:12. And He did that by providing families for us to serve. It wasn't what I expected when I asked for joy, but I realized quickly it was exactly what I needed.
Last year at this time, CJ was so freshly diagnosed and we were still so uncertain of so much of our future, that I remember just staring at him as he opened his presents and thinking 'what if this is his last Christmas with us.' I wanted to engrave that morning on my heart and mind forever. I would never have dreamed that it wasn't CJ I would lose within that year, but my father instead to a tragic and premature death. I would never have dreamed that the Lord would use those experiences one year later to allow our family the privilege to serve other families facing that same deep pain and fear of losing someone they love.
The Lord brought two families to our attention. One we met in Orlando back in September on our family cancer camp trip. You may remember seven year old Andrew Broomfield from a previous blog, who is currently on hospice at this stage in his battle. He is at home awaiting the healing that will come, whether it is here on earth through a miraculous healing, or in Heaven when he stands healed before the Lord. Then, the week before Christmas, the Lord brought us a sweet 5 year old little girl named Mackenzie who has just experienced a relapse of cancer to her lungs that has left her with minimal treatment options available. Thankfully, I was reminded today that the Lord doesn't have 'minimal treatment options' available to Him. (Thank you Katrina for that reminder!)
We were privileged to be able to provide these families with Christmas gifts for their children as well as monetary blessings and gift cards we collected on their behalf through our non-profit organization we began back in the summer. What I thought was us blessing them really served to bless us and everyone involved in making it all possible. I saw it on the faces of the people who helped wrap, deliver and donate to these families. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive and you will never experience the blessing and healing that come from it unless you get out there and start giving so that you can receive.
On Christmas Eve our family drove to Lake Worth to deliver the gifts to Mackenzie's family. Her mother Sue asked me how I am able to do this while I am still going through it with my own son and I am sad to say I was so caught off guard by her question that I did not really have an answer. I think I mumbled something about it helping us focus on others instead of ourselves. But I have thought about that question a lot since then and the only answer is... The Lord! There is no explanation for what we have done. When I look back over this month He is the only explanation. My children and I have all been sick the entire time. Really sick! We have been completely heartbroken and grieved over the loss of Poppa Jerry. We have been through loss and pain that is overwhelming at times. Yet God still brought these families to us and asked us to provide for them and assured us He would provide the strength to do it. What I did not realize when He asked this of us was that it was a precious gift to our family and a part of our healing.
He allowed me to be sick so I would have to depend on others for help. As a large group of volunteers sat on my floor and wrapped presents for a few hours last week I realized I could never have done this alone. My head was so clogged I could barely think straight. It kept me very humble throughout the entire time. When I calculated all that came in for these families with one simple plea for help...I was overwhelmed at what can be done to help others who are suffering. Thank you to EVERYONE who helped make this Christmas a blessing for these two families. We are humbled and grateful to have been a small part of what you did!
Recently, CJ said something funny while we were driving back from an event and talking about all we had to do to meet the needs of these families and organize the gift collecting, wrapping and fund-raising. He was in the back seat and he said, "Mommy, I want to be a separatist for you." I asked him what he meant and he said, "You know, help with phone calls, and take notes and help you." It took a minute to realize he meant to say "secretary". We all got a laugh at that and then we reminded him what a separatist was and talked a little about the Puritans of the 1600's. Then it hit me that in many ways that is really what he already is. A separatist! I guess we are all separatists in God's economy. It's just a matter of sides. We are either separated from God by our sins or separated from the curse of sin and death through Christ.
"...remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12)
"For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
"Therefore come out from them
and be separate, says the Lord...
...I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.""(2 Cor6:17)
My little separatist will bring in the New Year with chemotherapy. That is right! He has a spinal tap, intrathecal, and chemotherapy on New Years Eve. We pray that all goes well and he is able to be home early enough to rebound enough to enjoy the evening with his family and friends. We are thankful for his continued progress and boldly ask for your continued prayers. CJ has been sick for some time now with a steady cold and some sporadic vomiting that we believe is related to the cold and not a result of the medicines or cancer. But we need him to get better so he can tolerate the chemotherapy and continue to fight the battle within. We desperately need overall healing in our home. We have been dealing with illnesses and severe colds since September.
As the new year approaches I can't help but look back at all this year brought into our lives. We are so saddened by the pain of loss we experienced this year personally and the loss we witnessed again and again in the world of childhood cancer. "Yet we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:2-5) I pray that no matter what you have experienced this year you too can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God! If you are able to do that, then you just may be a separatist too!
Stockings, Cards and Presents Collected for the hospital
Volunteers Wrapping for Mackenzie's family
Mackenzie with CJ and Allie and her sister Alicia
CBC and the Miami Dade Mortgage Fraud Task Force with Andrew
My beautiful babies on Christmas morning
CJ Corey Alibrandi and Brett