Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Than Pleasantly Surprised

Sometimes I seriously wonder why God is so faithful to me when I am so faithless to Him. I wallow in the murky waters of doubt, confusion and low expectations so often. I struggle to discern his voice and yet listen to the lies of the enemy so easily. Sometimes I think my faith and expectations of what God can do are so low that He must get a kick out of watching me be surprised over and over again.

CJ was recently invited to a Marlins game with a program called New Era Caps for Kids. This is a program that provides a signed cap for a child with a life threatening disease from someone they admire. Knowing CJ is a Marlins Fan, they matched him up with the Marlins and sent us to a game. We were told he would get to attend batting practice and there would be an on field ceremony where a player would come out, take some pictures with him, and sign his cap.

Although extremely grateful for the opportunity, I confess I was more than a little worried how the night would play out. I pictured CJ surrounded by half naked cheerleaders (that is being extremely generous on my part) and a player coming on the field who is indifferent to CJ's situation and just doing his job. I was worried the night would not glorify God and would misrepresent our ideals and values. I prayed silently on the way there that the cheerleaders would not be anywhere around. I asked God to give me the courage to politely ask them to step out of our family pictures if they were and the wisdom to know when to keep my mouth shut.

We arrived and were greeted by a Marlins representative who escorted us to the on field batting practice where we were told to stand behind the marked lines and watch. We were instructed not to call out to the players or seek autographs unless the players come over to us.

We watched for a bit and Hanley Ramirez walked over and signed some autographs. That was very exciting for the kids. As we stood there CJ said to me, "Mom, Brett Carroll just waved at me." I asked him which one was Brett Carroll and he pointed him out to me. At this point, all I knew about Brett Carroll was that, according to CJ, he could throw anyone out from anywhere on the field. (I thought that was a pretty impressive baseball statistic and one you don't hear very often) I also knew that I liked his name having my own little Brett. Add to that that he waved to my kid...and I was becoming a fan.

Another Marlins Rep standing close by heard us talking about Brett Carroll and asked if we liked him. I shared with the Rep my three fascinating reasons for liking Brett and he found them to be quite interesting. He even questioned me, "You like Brett Carroll because you like his name?" I told him that we have players we like for various reasons but in our family we tend to wait until we know what kind of person they are beyond their playing ability before we decide how much we like them. Promoptly, the Rep said, "I will tell you what kind of person Brett Carroll is.....he is a man of great faith and recently spent over and hour sharing his faith with me while we were on a road trip." Add that to my three fascinating facts and now you have a true fan!

As I stood there, I suddenly felt very strongly that the Lord was asking me to share with this gentleman why we were there. So I took a deep breath and told him why it meant a lot to me that Brett Carroll waved to CJ. I told him about the Cap for Kids program we were there for that evening and why CJ was chosen for it. We spoke about CJ's diagnosis and treatments.

This man, Peter Kahn, was obviously affected by CJ's story. His face registered compassion and kindness. He looked at CJ fondly and it almost made me cry. It wasn't a look of pity that I often see but a look of understanding. Through conversation, I came to discover that this gentleman had three sons of his own, all similar ages to our three boys.

Once again, we watched the batting practice and chatted excitedly with the kids. In an amazing gesture of kindness Peter said to me, "I can't make any promises but I made eye contact with Brett and hopefully he will be coming over when he is done." Trying not to set ourselves up for disappointment, we waited eagerly and hoped he would come. I told CJ that if he did come over he could offer him a Pray for CJ bracelet.

Brett did make his way over to the kids. CJ handed him a ball to sign and the first thing CJ asked him was while he was signing it was,"How did you get your arm so strong?" The first words out of Brett Carroll's mouth were, "It's all the Lord! It's a God given strength." CJ looked back at me with huge eyes. I smiled at him knowingly. At this point, I am a certified fan. They chatted a bit CJ handed him a bracelet and told him, "I heard you were a Christian like me so I wanted to give you this and ask if you could pray for me." Brett took the bracelet and said sincerely, "I sure will." We took some great pictures with him and said our goodbyes.

As we stood there, I had an opportunity to thank Mr. Kahn for initiating that meeting and we spoke a little about faith. Once again, I got the feeling the Lord wanted me to share more with him but I wasn't sure what. As we talked about CJ's illness and faith and he shared that faith was important and that "faith was faith." Not sure what he meant, I offered that my faith was in the Lord. He then shared that he was Jewish. A little late on the uptake as usual, I was beginning to realize God was busy at work in this situation. I explained to him that I was also of Jewish heritage and that I was a believer in Yeshua, Jesus, as my savior. I shared with him that my father is a Jewish believer as well. As we spoke, I remembered that he said Brett Carroll had recently shared his faith with him. I knew that God was definitely up to something in this man's life. Peter asked me if he could have a pray for CJ bracelet too. Honored that he would ask and accepting his offer to pray for CJ, I gave him a bracelet and we said our goodbyes.

As we were lead into a room to await the on field ceremony to begin, I was feeling a little rattled like I failed somehow to share what God wanted him to hear. I was really excited for CJ and so grateful God lead a Christian player over to us but it felt a little incomplete and I was inwardly wondering if I should have been better prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in me and once again found myself wishing for a second chance.

As we waited and cooled down from the intense South Florida heat our appointed representative came in with a bag of goodies for the kids. There was a t-shirt jersey for CJ and somehow before I even pulled it out I knew what number it would be....and I am sure by this time if you have been following this blog for any length of time you do guessed it..... number 3. CJ's number! God continual reminder to CJ that He is with him. None of us were surprised but I will admit I was beginning to realize that God was more involved in this night than I originally expected. The Rep handed him a hat and reminded him to take it with him when he was called over to home plate so the player could sign it. We said thank you and were told to relax and wait until they came to get us.

While we were waiting, Peter Kahn unexpectedly walked in the room with a bat in his hands. He was looking for CJ. He walked over to him with the bat held gingerly in his hands and told CJ, " Brett Carroll came and gave this to me and asked me to be sure you got it. This is his personal bat." As he handed it to CJ we could see that is was still sticky from just being used moments before. We looked down at it and saw the handwritten inscription:

"CJ, May the Lord give you strength! Praying for you and your family. God Bless, Brett Carroll Gal 2:20"

As Peter Kahn stood there with us, CJ looked at me as if to ask what verse it was and thankfully I knew it. As I recited it for him I was acutely aware that the verse was for Peter as much as it was for CJ. This is one of my favorite verses and I realized I was getting that second chance I had asked for to share God's words with him. Since I can not be trusted with my own words, God put me in a position to share His instead.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."

Stunned, we all sat around holding the bat and talking about how amazing everything had been so far. In our minds, the on field hat ceremony could not even come close to this. Having met a Christian player who we believed would honestly be praying for CJ, a Jewish brother who God is obviously seeking, and holding a bat with scripture on it from Brett Carroll would not compare to a hat signed by the most famous player in the entire MLB association. This is where I failed to realize that God does more than we can even think or imagine and our minds are so little.

Within a few minutes we were lead back out for CJ's on field ceremony at home plate where he would receive the signed hat. We asked our Rep if she knew who the player was and she said no. CJ was lead over to home plate by the Billy the Marlin Mascots (no cheerleaders in sight, praise God!) and we were asked to wait and watch from afar or watch the jumbo screen as it would all be broadcast overhead.

CJ was a little nervous when he realized he would be going alone but you can imagine how that just completely melted away as Brett Carroll stepped out of the dugout wearing CJ's blue bracelet. CJ was ecstatic! He looked at Brett and said, "I knew it would be you!" What he was really saying was that he was hoping it would be. They chatted, posed for pictures and Brett signed the hat. CJ had a smile from ear to ear. The rest of us watched everything from the jumbo tron just amazed at God. I wish I could adequately express our emotions and I hope I am faithfully painting a picture for you of that special night.

After the ceremony ended CJ walked back over to us and handed me the hat while boasting, "Wait until you see this!" The hat read,
Brett Carroll #25
Romans 8:28

I just stared at it and silently prayed, Father forgive me for doubting You or confining Your hand to 'religious' events. I realized again that God is so much bigger than I give Him credit for. He is faithful when I am not. He meets my low expectations with His highness. I was more than pleasantly surprised as He turned an event that I was worried would be secular and unedifying into a God glorifying evening. We walked out with a hat and bat not only signed, but signed with Scripture. Praise be to God!

There is so much more I could share with you about that evening and how God has been working since, but let's just say that since that night our family has been actively praying for Brett Carroll's career as well as for Peter Kahn to come to faith in the Messiah.

Last night Brett Carroll had the winning at bat that ended the game after trailing by 3 points for majority of the innings. He walked over to the microphone and praised the Lord openly twice on National Television. I pray for faith like that! God make me a faithful steward of Your word. And thank You for Your second chances when I fail.

Tomorrow CJ will go in for blood counts to see how he is reacting to the chemo. He has been feeling well and has recovered from the cold we all picked up in Orlando.

I ask for prayer as we continue to try to find out why he is still dealing with the limp, increased shakiness at times and just a general lack of muscle control that effects him overall. Although we hope and pray these are only side effects to the medications and will all correct itself in time, we will be seeing a neurologist in two weeks to follow up.

Lately I have struggled a bit as CJ has looked at me more often and said, "My stomach hurts." I have to allow that to bounce all over my heart and through my head and then just say okay and offer him water or send him to the bathroom. But I confess that the flashbacks and fear that these reactions will turn out to be regrets like they were when he got diagnosed is always with me. But what choice do I have? I can't run anywhere and find out if the cancer is growing again or affecting him every time his stomach hurts. I just have to trust in God, believe God knows and will reveal to me anything He feels I should know in His due time.

Thank you for letting me share our journey and thank you for your prayers!

Brett Carroll with CJ, Allie, and Brett

Peter Kahn and CJ after presenting the bat

CJ and his good friend Adam at the game


Amy Derrickson said...

I love this story! It is so exciting how God is using your lives to bring glory to Him and further His Kingdom. The kids and I pray for you guys daily.

Anonymous said...

I felt like I was there watching CJ experience all this! By the third paragraph I was crying and stayed that way until the end. How wonderful and marvelous that God is providing your family with so many confirmations that He is involved intricately in this journey. I'm sure CJ had an even greater impact on those young men then he realizes, and one may be for eternal life! Praise the Lord! We love you, Aunt Karen

Anonymous said...

Wow Dawn...How amazing is God. I cried reading this story...God is so loving and faithful. My heart is overflowing with thankfulness and I stand once again in awe of our Lord. May He always get the glory. We continue to lift you guys up in prayer. Rachel has never forgotten CJ and still prays for him. God is in all the details! I am so proud of CJ and I am so glad that he had the chance to meet Brett..what a heartwarming story! ps. thanks for sending the yearbook...we loved looking at all the pictures. Love, Loida

Anonymous said...

Dawn what a wonderful story. May God continue to bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

OHH! my, picture me jumping on top of the couch! screaming... yeah, really :0 This was soooo amazing, let me rephrase this, GOD is so amazing, and yes Dawn you definitely communicated all the emotions of the moments...that is why I am jumping. WOW!!! CJ I am so excited that you can so clearly see all the things that God is doing through you and your family and to be reminded in such an unmistakable ways that He is walking right beside you ....what a merciful God we all have.

Love you all so much and I am so thankful that you all can have this amazing moments that hopefully will renew and strengthen your faith.
Love you much
Caludia for the Abeggs :)

Unknown said...

Wow, wow, wow, God is awesome! I'll be praying for Mr Kahn!


Anonymous said...

All I can say is WOW! God is awesome!!! Thanks again for sharing Dawn, these posts always encourage me so much!!!

:) Becky
for the Gonzalez Gang

Janet said...

Dawn, I believe because you were concerned about the evening being one that glorified God, is the reason God showed your family His glory...and Mr. Peter Kahn, and the rest of us! The ceremony became more about celebrating who God is....and how much better you enjoyed this ceremony!! and so did we through your eyes.
I loved this blog entry! It was very timely for me, Dawn. The paragraph where you wrote how you prayed for our Father to forgive you for doubting Him or confining Him to 'religious' events spoke volumes to me. I can relate and pray the same thing. I pray I will seek to glorify Him more. I pray I worship Him with my life and not just on Sunday mornings. I pray my faith in Him grows more and more. And most of all, I thank Him for His faithfulness through my faithlessness!!
Thank you, Dawn, for sharing your special times with our Abba Father and showing us how faithful He is.
I, too, will be praying for Mr. Peter Kahn.
janet s

Unknown said...

Wow!!!! That is amazing!!!! Especially the two number three signs from God. He is with you and walking through everything with you and those continuous number threes are his reminders. I just wanted to say hi and that I am praying for you, CJ. I am glad that you had a good time there at the Marlins game. May God bless you!
Your friend, Noah

Wendy Whitlow said...

What a great story Dawn...thanks for sharing. God is awesome like that...and He probably gets a big chuckle out of our Ah ha moments! :)

Unknown said...

Praise God! He is more than we can ever imagine! I will pray for comfort and peace for you in those moments CJ comes to you, But most of all Healing! I pray that he is healing and those symptoms are all only side effects of all that medicine. I love you sis. And enjoyed the post tremendously. I am thankful for people like Brett Carrol.



Anonymous said...

received by email...

Again as I read your post about CJ I stand amazed at the way God works. Your strength is beyond words and can only be described as a work from God. I have had a child that was very sick and when I look back on it now I ask myself how did I make it threw. I really know how I did it. GOD is how I did it. Actually I did nothing God did it all. You and CJ are in my prayers daily. I am praying his test will be good. sorry I can not post like everyone else but for some reason I have a problem with it. I wanted you to know that you and CJ are amazing and God is working thru you both in ways you will probably never know till we all get to heaven.. God Bless you both ...
Jean Mosley

I can do all things thru Christ who gives me my strength.. He alone is my salvation...
Jean Mosley

Anonymous said...

Hello my sister-in-Christ,

I am so amazed by your faith inspite of everything you have all have been through. I will be praying for CJ daily. We have a friend who's son lost the battle to cancer-brain tumors. He had less than a year to live. His mother Nicole is an amazingly strong woman just like you!! Praying for CJ's healing in JESUS name...right we should never lose faith because we serve an amazing and mighty God!!

Chana Wynne

Unknown said...

I noticed that the Florida Marlins had picked Brett Carroll as their pick for "Man of the Year". I'm not surprised. How inspiring of a human being he is. And Peter Kahn, a pretty cool guy himself. I will pray for both of these men tonight.

It is on my heart very much too about CJ having stomach pain, the limp and his shakiness. I try not to think about it but I do. I have to believe the doctors feel this is all medication related reactions to long term treatments with these heavy heavy drugs. I know that God knows though and He will reveal to Dawn and Chris in His time what all this means for CJ's future. We will stand by faithfully waiting for God to complete this miracle to heal CJ totally so he and his family can continue to serve Him and help others.

How awesome that the kids got to go to these Marlin games and with all the thousands of people there and players involved hook up with Brett Carroll. Coincidence? I think not.

Love Mom

Anonymous said...

Your blog is always inspiring, but this one was especially encouraging. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences! Love,
Jo Anne

Anonymous said...

Kind email we received! What a blessing to our family!

I read CJ’s blog this evening and he touched my heart so much. I can only imagine what everyone is going through. I have quilt ministry in Houston-Galveston and would love to send CJ one. They have scriptures on them for healing and I have donated hundreds through the years. Please let me know if CJ would like one. Amanda Blanda

CeCe said...

Wow.... that is a truly moving story. God is so amazing. I will pray for Mr. Khan! :) I love you guys so much! <3

In Prayer,


Unknown said...

Praise the Lord!!!!!! I love this story it was an awesome moment. I love you guys and you are always in my prayers. We need to get together soon. I have your yearbook. let me know when I can drop it off.