Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lift Up Your Eyes!

Baseball tryouts are over and CJ is on a team! He had a exhausting day of chemo and a spinal tap the day before tryouts, yet was still able to go out there the very next day and give it his all. I was a little worried because it was so hot out there on the field that day and he had a really hard time getting to sleep the night before after his chemo. The lack of sleep was due to a reaction he seems to be having every time he gets the spinal tap. His face gets painfully itchy. There is no rash but he says it itches like crazy. As I mentioned, it kept him up pretty late that night but that did not stop him from putting out 100% the next day on the field.

During the tryouts, one little boy standing next to him said, "It is so hot out here, I would rather be home watching TV." CJ looked at him with huge eyes and said, "Not me! I would rather be out here playing." Of course, that little boy could not know what CJ has gone through or how special it was for CJ to be standing there getting ready to try out for a team. But CJ knew. He was grateful to be standing there and he knew it was a privilege, blazing heat and all.

As I listened to other parents around me eagerly discuss what level their kid would play or what team they wanted I watched CJ and realized I did not care what level he was picked for or what team he landed on. All I really wanted was for him to have a great coach. I knew that would be important. So instead of worrying how he would perform and what team he would get, I prayed that CJ would get a good coach. A kind coach!

The next week we got the call that CJ was picked for a team and a team meeting was arranged to meet his coach. Within five minutes of listening to the coach talk, I was already thanking God. Somehow, I knew he was a Christian. Sure, there were outward signs. But more importantly, there were inward signs. Let's just say... it takes one to know one. Maybe it was my spirit confirming what I had hoped and prayed for. Nevertheless, the coach's peace was obvious. Later that night, I shared my suspicions with CJ about our shared faith and he agreed.

The coach was so kind at the first practice that I started to wonder if he already knew about CJ. I thought maybe the news had spread through some of the other coaches who knew our family. I wondered if it would effect his opinion of CJ's performance and if he would be able to be objective towards CJ in considering his ability.

It became obvious that he did not know about CJ and we decided to not say anything until he had a chance to see him play and make a fair decision in position placements. I confess, it was a little awkward for me watching CJ practice and knowing the coaches knew nothing. It was almost as if he was like every other kid out there and nothing changed from the last time he played. But in my heart I know he is not, and everything has changed. As I watch him play, statistics ring in my head reminding me what a small category he actually falls in and all the risks involved. As the statistics begin to scroll through my mind, I force myself to counter them with Scripture to combat the anxiety and fear they can cause.

Without the luxury of knowing about CJ, the coach saw him play, noted his ability, and placed him at third base as well as began working with him at pitcher. CJ is thrilled of course! At one of the practices, I had the opportunity to talk with the coach about his faith. As suspected, he and his wife are committed Christians. What a blessing! Thank you Jesus!

Once the position placements were made and the coach was already working with CJ at pitcher, we realized we had to tell him. It would only be fair to him and everyone involved. However, it is not the easiest thing in the world to pull someone aside and say, "By the way, our son, the one you will be coaching, he has cancer and is currently receiving chemotherapy. Just thought you should know." It doesn't come out as easily or naturally as, "When is the next practice?"

CJ decided he was ready for his coach to know. So at the end of one of CJ practices, his dad explained the situation to his coach. Coach Alex took it perfectly and told CJ he would treat him just like all the other kids and that he believed CJ would be okay. He took it so well that I almost wondered if he understood the seriousness of what we were telling him. After all, CJ does not look sick on the outside. Now that his hair is back you would not even know a thing. But even as I internally questioned his understanding, I remembered that this coach was an answer to prayer. I know God hand picked him for CJ. Therefore, I know God had already prepared his heart and mind in advance for the news that he himself did not even know he was about to receive. But God did!

"But it is the spirit in the man, the breath of the almighty,
that gives him understanding."
(Job 32:8)

CJ is having a blast and pouring himself 150% into it as usual. Our biggest challenge as parents when CJ is involved in any sport is not allowing it to become too consuming in his life while still encouraging him to give it his best effort. We tend to spend a lot of time on the topics of idols and loving the world during sports seasons. If I could just get him to pour himself into his schoolwork with that same level of enthusiasm I could graduate him by 10th grade!

Just when I worry he is too focused on baseball, he does something for his teammates that helps me see beyond the game itself. As usual, CJ is already taking a liking to the 'odd man out'. Last time he played baseball it was a kid who was noticeably larger than everyone on the team and had no baseball experience and struggled throughout the season. CJ befriended and encouraged him. This year it is a a kid who is much smaller than everybody else and also noticeably different than everyone on the team. CJ talks about him and is already making plans on how he will befriend him, encourage him, and look out for him during the season. Today he handed out packs of baseball cards that he spent all day making for his teammates by going through his collection. He rubber banded them and gave them each a set with a piece of gum. These are the things that I pray he will remember in the years to come when baseball seasons are over. Not the scores, or the hits, or the strike outs, but the difference he made in the life of another kid by simply being kind.

I am beginning to realize that CJ's placement on this team may not only be for his benefit, but for his teammates as well. How many of you played ball with a kid who had cancer when you were growing up? Catch my meaning? It obviously has the potential to impact their lives greatly as well.

I will admit I am nervous and yet looking forward to seeing CJ play come mid August when the games start. My mother heart worries about any setbacks this could cause him. I can not help but calculate the risks involved and wonder if we should have waited just a little longer. I have already experimented and constructed three different port protectors for him to wear to cover his port. We think we finally got it figured out. I sewed a little pocket onto his undershirt right where the port is and we slipped an old elbow guard in the pocket and there you have it...a homemade port protector!

Mostly, I struggle with watching him play as he struggles with his legs. I wish his body would cooperate and respond to what his mind is asking of it. The last we were told by the Orthopedic and the Oncologists was that this was some kind of muscle weakness and joint stiffness and was common for kids on chemotherapy and that it would gradually get better when he was off the medications. But something inside me feels that same feeling I had before he got diagnosed. That feeling that says something is wrong even though I am being told everything is okay. There is that tug on my heart that won't go away that says 'this isn't normal'. In those moments I have to remind myself that I may not know why he is limping, the doctors may not even know why he is limping, but God knows! And He will reveal it in His time. So in the meantime, I settle my anxious heart by fixing my gaze upward. I have been reminded recently that I need to "Lift Up My Eyes" more often. It is amazing how different the view is by simply shifting my gaze from the horizontal to the vertical.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of His Glory and Grace.
lyrics by: Michale W. Smith

Here is a peek into my mind while at baseball practice:

How I Counter Statistics with Scripture:

Childhood Cancer Facts:

Fact: Each school day, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer
Truth: "Even the very hairs on (CJ's) head are all numbered" Matt 10:30

Fact: Each year in the US 12,600 kids are diagnosed with cancer.
Truth: "All the days of (CJ's) life ordained for (him) were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16

Fact: Childhood Cancer occurs randomly, regularly, and spares no ethnic, socioeconomic, race or region.
Truth: " For you created (CJ's) inmost being. You knit him together in my womb. I praise you because he is fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139)

Fact: Although the 5 year survival rate is steadily increasing, one quarter of all children diagnosed with cancer will die 5 years from the time of diagnosis!
Truth: "Do not listen to what the (statistics) are prophesying to you, they fill you with false hopes..(which are) ...not from the mouth of the Lord." Jer. 23:15

Fact: Cancer remains the number one disease killer of America's children-more than Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Asthma and AIDS combined!
Truth: "Praise the Lord, O My Soul, and forget not his benefits who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases." Psalm 103:2-4

Fact: Late effects of childhood cancer treatments are common in survivors, and approx. one third are moderate to severe.
Truth: "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." Jer. 29:11

Fact: Children diagnosed with cancer are more likely to experience secondary cancers than adults diagnosed with cancer.
Truth: "We wait in hope for the Lord, He is our help and shield." Psalm 33:20

I prefer the days that I sat at ballgames and went over my grocery list in my head but I was never really able to counter them with Scripture quite as effectively!

CJ's home-made port protector

As always, thank you to our prayer warriors. We are humbled and honored that you would use some of your precious time before the throne of God on our family's behalf. Pray for wisdom for our family as we step out in faith and allow CJ more freedoms. Pray his port will remain protected and not need replaced until this is finally over and it can come out once and for all. Pray for continued healing in his body and that the cancer will not come back. Please pray that if there is anything more to what is going on in his little legs and hips that it would be revealed and God would enlighten the doctors to know what it is.


shawn said...

We are proud of you buddy. We love you and hope to see you soon.

Elena Rodriguez said...

Great Job CJ making the team.. Congratulations.. We pray for you each day and keep up with you via your blog.. Enjoy what the blessing that the Lord has for you! We rejoice with you.

Rodriguez Girls..

Anonymous said...

Yay for CJ! We celebrate with you and thank God as well for the mercy in His choice of the coach. May God continue to protect you (each of you!) and bring forth beautiful fruit from this baseball season and the experiences He allows! Love and blessings and thanks for the updates! Still praying :) mattie and hugh and caedmon

Aunt Karen said...

Wow - 3d base!! A player has to be really good to play the last base which stops the other team from getting a home run! It sounds like you are quite the athlete - way to go, CJ! If you can make 3d base while you're on chemo, can you imagine what you'll do when your treatment is over? Congratulations! I am so proud of you for trying your best and being brave, and especially for caring about your teammates and letting God use you to reach them for Him! I am so impressed! Play Ball!! Love, Aunt Karen

Anonymous said...

It is so important to boys who want to play ball be able to play ball and we are blessed and I know CJ is that he is able to play. 50 years ago when my younger brother was diagnosed with lymphomic leukemia they didn't get them much of a chance to live too long. He lived a year and a half longer than expected. He played ball the summer he wasn't supposed to be here and my mom was so glad he was able to play. (It just makes you feel complete as a boy to some boys.) Some of the tests she let the doctors run on him probably opened the doors to some of the results we have today. And we know that was so important. God is able to keep us above and beyond what we are able to comprehend and again, we are so blessed to know CJ can play this summer and how GREAT he looks. We are praying for a wonderful experience for all involved. God bless and keep you all.
Love and Prayers,

Mary B.

Anonymous said...

CONGRATS CJ. I knew you could do it and you did it big. 3rd Base WOW. I am so proud of you and as I said from the day that I met you that you are a truly amazing person. Dawn the port protector looks awesome and we know that you would find a way to create something to protect him amd you are an amazing Mom and if we had more protectors like you in the world it would be a blessing. Congrats to you and your Family for reaching this milestone and getting there with all your love and Faith. God Bless and we hope to see you all again soon. Please let us all know when his game is so we can come out and provide the CJ cheering squad.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn,
It is good to hear from you. Congratulations to you and CJ, Dawn you are so creative and clever...the home made port cover is such a great idea. I'm glad you and the family are enjoying the wonderful moments that God gives us. I can understand how difficult this is, to stay at the moment and not fret over the past or worry about the future is something that I struggle with. This is specially difficult when I feel like "my" decisions have tremendous consequences on my family. However, I focus back to the eternal calling, and I know God has a very special purpose for each one of us. But I know it is hard for me to surrender at times and allow Him to work His miracles through us. In many ways I have stopped to try to figure things out and just focus on the wonderful moment He has given me with some very special people. Dawn, thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts.
Your friend,

Tammi said...


Martha said...

Dear Dawn and CJ,


I am so happy that you are playing baseball!!!! And also and most important that you are fully enjoying it...waooo may the glory be to our Lord, who picked the right couch , and I am sure you are going to do great CJ! Good luck in all the games, and may God use you to be a blessing to your team mates, and make a difference. God bless you little one!!!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and open your heart with us, thank you because even that we have not met personally I can always refer to you as I know you since forever. I thank God everyday for the opportunity of reading this blog, and hold my arms in prayers with your family for CJ's recovery. God bless you always.

With Love,


David Bush said...

Alright CJ! Congratulation! We should totaly play a practice game of indoor baseball in Nathan's living room when I get back! (we can tell him later that it was gnomes or something)

Hit a homerun for me!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your new baseball team!! Sounds like a wonderful coach you got, and third base YAHOO!! Can't wait to come to one of your games whats the name of your team?? I can remember when ali and John played T ball together!! Great times that was, we love you and pray for you everyday let us know your schedule? Your biggest fans!! The Rodriguez Gang xoxoxoxo

Sonia said...

It is really wonderfull all the goals you have made. I´m so happy for you and for CJ, this is going to be a grat motivation for him and for you. Every "out" he will made is going to be an out of illness and every "run" a success over the illness. Being happy and doing what you want to do is the best way to be alive. Live one day at a time that is all we have, our present and be one with God,being sure that you are in the rigth place at the right moment. Glad to hear from you. God Bless you all.
Sonia, Ale, Andrea y Antonio

andrea said...

Hey C.j!
I can't wait to see you play baseball again, keep up the befriending buddy! you have always been a great friend to me and i know you will be the same to all those other kids on the field!
love you,

Janet said...

Hey, CJ. Congratulations! We know how much this means to you and are so happy for you making the team...and third base!! Wow!! We look forward to coming to watch you play and cheering for your team.
Dawn, you'll have to patent that port protector! ;-) very creative!
we love you all! Sedanos

Anonymous said...

CJ is such a kind, thoughtful young man! Congratulations to CJ for not only making the team, but 3rd base! And yes, I think anyone who has the pleasure or privledge of knowing CJ is the one that ends up truly blessed, and touched by God through him! He is definitely ordained by Our Father. He is one of God's helpers here on Earth. He is living out his God given gifts. I heard in a sermon once, that God will ask two questions when we get up there. One ofcourse is what did you do with My Son? and the other is What did you do with the gifts I have bestowed upon you, did you use them for the purpose I created you for? We all have a God given purpose for why we are here, for why He created us. CJ is truly walking with Him and serving Him through his actions.

Anonymous said...

Sweet! C.J. thats super cool :) you never gave up, and God always gave the grace up to this point, and I know that He will continue to give it all throughout the season! Play hard for the Lord! Miss you bro, hope to see you soon :)


Anonymous said...

Congrates, I am so excited for you CJ! I am also grateful to the Lord for allowing you the opportunity to play this year instead of waiting for next year. Have a blast! The mom in me also wants to say be careful and I will be praying for your mom too. :) Can't wait to see some action shots.
With love, Mrs. Gray

CeCe said...

Congratulations CJ! That is so cool that you are able to get into sports again! Love you guys!