“Remembering”

It was supposed to be a special day. It’s one of those landmark days that you look forward to your whole life growing up.  Incalculable hours of time and energy are spent planning for this day by multiple people: not just those directly involved, but caring friends and family, too. Of all the special days that one has in this lifetime, this event was among those most treasured.

Then something happens. And now, the special day will come; but the event that was supposed to make it special will not be taking place.

It feels like the gash left from the robbery of my special day will never find the right fit to fill it. Yes, it feels like I (Amy) got robbed, cheated, disappointed by someone I trusted wholeheartedly. And as many times since then that I think I have healed and my emotional wound has finally become a scar of survival, I still get surprised by new pain. Now, the closer I get to my would-be special day, the more often these surprising pangs occur.

Everything inside of me right now is crying out to numb myself.  This pain, the memory, the anticipation, the disappointment, the bitterness that keeps cropping up… it’s all too much. I don’t want to deal with it. It feels like I can’t deal with it. Feeling nothing would be so much better than treading through all this overwhelming hurt.

Somewhere through it all, a voice of reason says not to numb myself.  It doesn’t give any reason why, or at least I can’t hear it, but I know it’s better not to numb myself.  Knowing that doesn’t change the desire to do so.  

I know it’s not the end. I know that numbing myself is just a means to hide, and hiding only makes the journey through all of this even longer. I know that I will get through this.  I know that this is temporary. I know that there are bigger, more serious problems in the world. I know all these things.  But knowing these truths doesn’t lessen the truth of all that I’m feeling.

There are some days that I know how strong God has made me, and I know I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be days where I feel weak, tired, worn out, and ready to quit. At the end of those days, instead of quitting, I cling to this simple Truth: God loves me, God sees me, God is with me, God is not giving up on me.

In this time of remembering my stolen special day and all the pain and loss associated with it, that Truth is what I grasp onto with all my might. It won’t feel real, and it may not feel true sometimes.  But it is true, no matter what our easily manipulated emotions may tell us.

This May Make You Cry

In summer, I (Kendra) enjoy Vacation Bible School (VBS) and other events that show children the love of Jesus.  Now that my daughter can enjoy VBS too, it is even more fun. She is three. Thursday, we taught about the love of Jesus.  In our closing, my husband dressed up like Jesus.  After the closing, my husband (in costume) was still on stage.  My daughter was on the floor staring at him.

I asked my daughter, “Did you have fun today?”

She didn’t answer.  So I knelt down, to continue to talk, she gave me a big hug.  She turned around in my arms and stared at her daddy (still in costume).  I wondered if she recognized him, so I asked, “Who is that?”

She responded, “God.”

She didn’t ask questions.  She wasn’t scared.  Her face showed amazement.  As I knelt with my daughter, I thought, “I think this is the first time that she has ever ‘seen’ God.  Thank you, God, for this moment where I get to be amazed by You with my daughter.  Help us to always be amazed by You.  Help me to teach this girl to love you and serve you.”

This experience reminds me of Matthew 18:1-6.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

This experience reminds that children naturally believe and are humble.  It is our job to foster that belief by showing them how great our God is.  We don’t do this by trying to be great, but rather by following the “GREATEST ONE” that is Jesus.

Starting Over

 

“You’re an overcomer

Stay in the fight ’til the final round

You’re not going under

‘Cause God is holding you right now

You might be down for a moment

Feeling like it’s hopeless

That’s when he reminds you

That you’re an overcomer

You’re an overcomer”

If you come to my (Kendra’s) house, there are days that is song (Overcomer by Mandisa) is playing on repeat.  Chemo is hard, and I have it easier than others.  I don’t get nauseous.  I can control my intestinal pain.  (Water, fiber, and exercise does wonders).  But I hate it.    I feel so tired.  I don’t know how to to push myself.  I know I need rest, but if I give up, I get so discouraged.  

Recently, my sister-in-law called.  She asked me if I would be willing to speak at a fall retreat.  The theme would be endurance.  Although I didn’t tell her no, I find it to be ironic, as I looked around my messy house, with little desire to do anything about it.  Satan whispered, “You don’t know anything about endurance.  If you did, you would have a clean house.”

But the last five years I have learned to recognize his lies quicker.  I smiled, because I have great endurance, and I am still here fighting.  Somedays, I move slowly.  Somedays, I move too quickly.  Other days, it takes me all day to get motivated.  And somedays, I just need to learn from my mistakes and start all over again.  But I keep fighting.

Although, there are days that Satan tells me that I haven’t grown or that I am not making a difference, but I know those are lies.  I know that a wonderful, good Creator is working on me.  I know that Bible is speaking to me.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.- Ephesians 6:10

1 I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.

2 Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.

3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.

4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:  “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”- Psalms 116:1-4

I can declare that I serve a good God who is making me into His masterpiece.  He wants to be working in your life too.  You are not alone.  Find someone who will support you.  Support others as well.  Because we are stronger together.  Depend on each others.  Just like Mandisa. In this video, Mandisa reveals how difficult life as been since she released “Overcomer” and how God brought her through it.

So I will keep fighting, and I ask you to help me.  Please pray for opportunities for me (and maybe you), to uncover our pain, and use it for the glory of Him.

If the link, didn’t work.  Trying copying and pasting:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/mandisa-opens-overcoming-depression-47020463

Rescue Mission – Memorial Day

Picture taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/7314960778

It’s a day to remember those who have served and gave everything in the American Armed Forces over the course of our history to protect and preserve the freedoms we enjoy even today. I (Amy) know I have friends who are not happy with the way this country is going. I know I also have friends who are not supporters of the military. I know I have friends who are in the military, and I am personally so thankful for their service. This blog isn’t about your personal convictions about the temporary mechanics of this country and how it defends itself. This blog is about war.

You are in a war right now. If you, like me, designate yourself as Christian, then the enemy has you in his sights. He knows your weak points, he knows your fortifications, and he’s patient. He knows the right time to strike. He also knows who your leader is, but he wants you to be distracted and think that you’re in this fight all on your own.

If you are reading this and you say, “I’m not a Christian,” I would daresay you’re still in this war.  You do not have to fight in a war to find yourself in the middle of one. I think we’re all well aware that not only soldiers are the ones affected by war.

So what happens when you find yourself in the middle of the battle? This past week, I had a moment where the battle had overtaken me, and I couldn’t even recognize it.  I reached out to a friend, telling her all the details of what I felt, but it could be summarized, “I don’t know what’s changed, but something isn’t right.” She knew in an instant what was going on.  She told me that I was under attack, gave me step by step instructions on how to fight back. Then, all my mental fog that had been hovering around me dissipated, and I was all right again.

It dawned on me later how monumental that interaction was. In the heat of the moment when you can’t even tell what’s going on, you need someone with a bird’s-eye view of what mess you’re in to give you directions on how to get out. It wasn’t a matter of: “Work through this until you find your way out.” This was a cry for help and a fellow soldier on a rescue mission. Someday, I will be able to return the favor.  This isn’t about who is the stronger Christian; this is helping each other fight through the battle together.

I’ve said it before, and I do believe I will say it again: The Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. For this blog, I’d like to expand that phrase.  The spiritual war is not meant to be fought alone. Your Lord is your leader and your strength, never faltering and never abandoning His soldiers, for we are His own family. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are here to help you, just as you are to help them.  It’s a constant flow of encouragement and strength, like a fountain.  Water comes in and water flows out, and the cycle never ends.

Our hope and encouragement is also in this: we know that our God wins the war. Someday, when that war is over, our faithfulness will be rewarded with a resounding, “Well done!” Until then, my brothers and sisters in arms, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down…Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

You are not fighting this alone.  

 

Things don’t always as go you expect

A few months ago, I (Kendra) thought I had a doctor’s appointment.  When I arrived, the doctor wasn’t in.  Apparently, they tried to call me to reschedule, but somehow I missed it.

I also needed a TB test.  I scheduled a doctor’s appointment.  She refused to do it, because I didn’t talk to my neuro-oncologist about the TB test interacting with the chemo.  So after I got cleared from neuro-oncologist’s nurse, I scheduled another appointment.  When I went to have it done, the ladies at the front desk rescheduled me, because the first lady didn’t do it correctly.  After two appointments, still no TB test.

During the first three rounds of chemo in 2017, my daughter has been sick for each one.  The first round, my husband was sick as well.

Things don’t always go as you expect.

But I have hope, because these things didn’t surprise my God.  In fact, although I would not say He caused them or that they are good, my God is using them for good. (Romans 8:28) But we shouldn’t continually quote Romans 8:28 without its context.

  1. The whole of creation is “groaning together” (verse 22).  Romans 8:28 isn’t about avoiding pain in this world.
  2. In verse 23-25, Paul writes about waiting and hoping for “the redemption of our bodies.”  And in verse 26, Paul talks about “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.”  I feel weak when I have to wait for the promises of God.  Paul encourages to keep hoping.
  3. In verse 27, Paul wrote “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  This isn’t about my will or yours;  it is about the will of God.
  4. Verse 29 says that our purpose is to be “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”  Sometimes we want to define good without considering, “Is this helping me or others to be ‘conformed to the image of his Son’?”  Maybe you need this struggle to become like Jesus.

So when life isn’t as you expect (or even more painful than you expect)– Praise God!!  You have an opportunity to become more like Christ and honor Him.  (But trust me, I wasn’t thinking this way on the way home from the doctor).

I am a work in progress.  God is forming me to be like Jesus.  Therefore, I know it is good.

Happy Mother’s Day

I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating motherly women today, but I know that some did not enjoy this Mother’s day. Today could contain a wide range of emotions.  

For me,  I feel sad, because this is the first Mother’s day without my Mom’s mother.  I still deal with disappointment because of my three God-raised babies.  I am jealous of other families, because right now I not sure how we can extend our family.  I grieve with my friend who just lost her mother.  I hurt for my acquaintance who won’t have her baby this Mother’s Day, because the adoption isn’t finalized.  I wait with my friends who desperately desire to become mothers.

Sometimes, I am tempted to numb myself to these emotion, but I know that isn’t how Christ created me to be.  If you try to numb yourself from negative emotions, you end up numbing yourself from all emotions.  If I numb myself from sadness and disappointment, I wouldn’t have full joy.

If you want to fully experience the good emotions, you can’t numb yourself to negative emotions.

Ever since my brain tumor diagnosis (five years ago), I have been told that I was strong.  Initially, I was confused.  I was just trying to survive.  I didn’t feel strong.  What was I doing that demonstrated strength?  I have learned that when I embrace my emotions and ask Jesus how to deal with them, I am strong.  When I break down and cry in front of people, they don’t see that as weakness, rather as strength.  

Our culture is confused about “being strong.”  Some believe that emotions are bad, because they can lead to pain.  We are strongly motivated to cover them.  If we truly want to deal with our emotions in a healthy way, we have few positive examples.  We see people numbing themselves through alcohol, drugs, overeating, smoking, hiding, and more.  

So if you want to experience all the good emotions, what do you do with the negative emotions?

Be honest with your emotions.  They reflect what is happening in your heart.  If you don’t like emotions reveal, pray that God will heal your heart.  He knows. He is the Creator.  He is making us into His workmanship (Eph. 2:10).  He will heal the emotions that aren’t good for us (like my jealousy).  He hurts with us.  And He will give peace that others don’t understand.  He is faithful.  He will heal the negative emotions.  Trust God to make us more like Him.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (ESV)

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (ESV)
Phil. 4:6-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5Let your reasonablenessd be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Fed Up With Fear

 

What is it in your life that consumes your mind with worry? It’s that thing that you can’t handle listening to someone else’s story about their experience with that particular thing, because it just gets in your head and won’t go away. It’s that thing that is waiting to haunt you first thing in the morning, stealing your thoughts away from being able to remember that day is a gift your loving Father has given you. It’s the last thing on your mind at night, and sometimes it’s what wakes you up in the night and won’t let your mind rest.  What is it in your life that no matter how many times you pray about, read verses about, give over to God, again and again and again, it keeps coming back?

Mine is my teeth.  You can laugh.  I (Amy) can’t see or hear you laughing, so it’s okay to laugh.  It’s probably a ridiculous fear, but there it is. I know that my teeth are not in their best health condition, a lot of it to do with how I’ve (not) taken care of them. But that fear of not knowing how bad opened the door wide open for worry to obsess over how bad it could be, to the point of multiple dreams of every tooth falling out and daytime fretting that I was going to set a record for being the youngest person alive to have dentures.  If you have never experienced worry and fear taking you to such a distant, isolated place, I envy you. But I’m guessing, chances are, that whatever your “thing” is that you obsessively worry about has taken you to wondering about some rather extreme outcomes.

I have journaled and prayed every verse I know about worry for weeks now.* I have surrendered this worry to God, repeatedly. I have gone through this cycle seemingly ad nauseum because every time I prayed, my worry hadn’t gone anywhere.  I couldn’t escape this fear. God would grant me peace, and the best time of my day was hiding myself in reading His Word. But I would have to leave that sanctuary, and my thoughts betrayed me and strayed back to worry, no matter how much Scripture I had at the ready to fight back.

All this struggle culminated to my recent dentist appointment. When I got home from the appointment, I pulled out my journal and began discussing what had just happened with God. Several realizations came out of this conversation:

    • What I went through was nowhere near as bad as what I had allowed my worry and fear to build it up to be.
    • There are things I personally need to change, not only in dental health; but instead of letting fear control me so strongly, remembering that God is sovereign over all things.

 

  • I’d been robbed.

 

 

Allow me to expand on that last one. My time, my energy, my efforts, my focus had all been pointed at fighting this fear. My days had been robbed of spending time in prayer for others: people I care about, missionaries, our country’s leaders, etc. My energy had been robbed of the opportunity to accomplish more in my day-to-day life: getting settled in this new town, improving my interpreting, working on writing, getting my taxes done, and anything/everything towards what God has called me to in this new chapter in life! My focus had become completely distracted from my Savior, and I was staring down the waves, sinking under them, trying to fight the water and stay afloat. It was all completely unnecessary.

Are my teeth so important to impact God’s Kingdom? No. But letting them become the distraction that kept me from doing Kingdom work, from serving God with all my heart, mind, and strength, is infuriating to me. And I’m done with that. So what is it in your life that’s robbing your energy and time? Is it worth it? Because I’m willing to say it’s not worth taking your eyes off your Savior.

*In case you are in need of some ammo from the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12):

  • Luke 12:22-32
  • 1 Peter 5:7
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • Psalm 55:22
  • Psalm 56:4
  • Psalm 94:19

Journal it, pray it, meditate on it, memorize it, let these Truths sink into your mind and heart.

Extreme Highs and Lows

I (Kendra) love talking about my Jesus.  He loves me so much.  Whenever I get an opportunity to tell about His work in my life, I hope and pray that I have the courage to speak up.  Recently, I did.  On April 23, I spoke at a women’s retreat, and the response to Jesus was phenomenal.

One woman wrote, “Your honesty, openness, and speaking of God’s Word was absolutely refreshing and, in some cases, convicting.  I am so glad you obey God, even when you didn’t understand it 🙂 You blessed my heart!”

Another woman wrote, “I had the privilege of hearing Kendra Berry speak at a ladies conference.  Her testimony in conjunction with her study of the Bible and her surrender to the Holy Spirit made her message both encouraging and convicting.  I left the retreat feeling refreshed and renewed.”

I love when I see the work of God so vividly. I started dreaming more about how God might use me again.  I was excited. But then, I went home to a sick husband.  On Tuesday, I had an MRI.  On Friday, another round of chemo started.  I saw my excitement from the weekend disappear.  

But the truth of retreat is still the same.  God loves.  Sometimes, we don’t recognize that, because guilt and shame separate us.  Sometimes, pain numbs us from His love.  Even in this difficult time, I know that God is with me.  

Yesterday, I didn’t want to write.  I didn’t want to play.  I didn’t want to…  I just wanted to rest in the Lord — to feel His love again. God is faithful.  My husband came home just to watch our kid.  Amy called.  A friend wanted to confirm that I didn’t have to cook this week.  Another friend called.  I am loved.  I love my friends.  I love my church.

In the Church, we are supposed to love and serve.  And when I am loving the global church, I am equipped to love even more, because love multiplies.

Hebrews 10:24-26  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

My prayer for you is that you would create deep relationships.  Guilt and shame tell us to get busy and neglect one another, to numb ourselves. But when we do that, we are limiting our power.  The church changes the world when we love each other.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

P.S.  If you know of an opportunity for me to speak about Jesus, please email me.  kendra@strongerwithchrist.com

I thought he was just a sale person!

Growing up, I (Kendra) didn’t understand my dad’s job.  I knew he was an agent who sold insurance.  I remember going into his business and noticing all the paperwork everywhere.  But after dealing with insurance for several years, I have a greater appreciation of my now-retired father’s career.  Now I know, he wasn’t just a salesperson.  He was his clients’ advocate.  Even though I didn’t understand what was happening, I do remember my dad educating his clients about the insurance world.  It is a very different world: network and out of network, deductibles, and co-pays.  It is difficult for us who don’t live in that world to know what questions to ask and make wise decisions.

Recently, I found myself wishing for an insurance advocate.  If you’re following my blog, you know that I have a brain tumor and last fall I received proton radiation.  Initially, my insurance didn’t want to pay for it.  They justified it as “out of network,” and conveniently didn’t have any place that does proton radiation in my network.  After much paperwork, we (my doctor and team of people) convinced an independent review that I needed proton radiation, and Kansas forced my insurance to pay for the treatment.

But recently, I learned that although they paid for the treatment,  I am being charged for the doctor’s appointment: over $6,000.  I started the paperwork to try to convince the insurance to pay for the doctor.  I was so confused. Is it a separate issue?  If you have an issue with your insurance, you are supposed to go through their system of review first.

I wanted an advocate.  Someone who will help me know what to do, but unfortunately I don’t have one.  Because of changes in the insurance industry, I don’t have an agent.

I am grateful that I do have an advocate.  He made not look like my dad, but I know I am not fighting this alone.  Jesus is my advocate. Although I may lose money over this, insurance can’t take away my soul.  Jesus is also constant.  There will not be changes that happen that will keep Him from being my advocate.  I will just try to walk as He walked, and Jesus will be with me.

1 John 2:1-6  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate before the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours alone, but also for the sins of the whole world.  By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments. If anyone says, “I know Him,” but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him: Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.

Personal Reflections for Easter

Sometimes I (Amy) forget that Jesus died for:

  • the politician I don’t like
  • the coworker I can’t stand
  • the relative I don’t get along with
  • the idiot in traffic I nearly hit
  • that annoying person at church
  • that person from my past that I can’t forgive
  • that bully at school
  • that person on the corner who might be scamming people
  • that rude stranger who made me have a bad day

Then I’m reminded… Jesus, You also died for:

  • the mother who faithfully bore You
  • the father who taught You carpentry
  • the disciple who denied You
  • the disciple who betrayed You
  • the soldiers who beat You
  • the leaders who accused You
  • Pilate who condemned You
  • his wife who feared You
  • the king who laughed at You
  • his predecessor who hunted You
  • the thief who taunted You
  • the thief who believed in You
  • the people who mocked You
  • the women who watched You
  • the disciples who abandoned You
  • all of us who would believe because of their testimony about You.

For every person who hurt me, their sins have offended You all the more. You died for us all.

“So now, I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples…This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 13:34-35, 15:12-13