Change Your Brain by Kendra

“Did you know you can actually change your brain?!

“The human mind has tremendous potential for change.  Research on how the brain can change its structure and function through thought and activity is fascinating.

“It’s simple. Our brain reflects the life we lead.…”

I read that in a pamphlet entitled: Turning Point The Center for Hope and Healing.  I picked up the pamphlet at KU Medical Hospital while we were learning about my third brain surgery.  I thought, “Lord, I don’t know how to change my brain, would you do it for me?  I want to be healed.”

Although my MRI says there is little positive change since surgery, I know that Jesus is changing how I think. This summer, Jesus has encouraged me to focus intentionally on Him.  At CIY, we learned about Peter walking on the water.  He was able to miraculously walk when Peter focused on Jesus, but when when Peter was distracted, Jesus pointed out his little faith.

I am like Peter.  Sometimes, I am focused on what I think I can’t do because of the tumor. I was focused on my storm. But the story of Peter teaches that focusing on the storm demonstrates little faith, but when I focus on Jesus, miracles occur.

I want to see a miracle in my life.  Not only do I want to be healed physically, I pray that my brokenness will be healed on Earth.  

I am learning that God wants that, too.  At CIY, I believe that God sent me Kyle to pray over me.  Even though we never spoke before and I have no reason to believe Kyle knew my story, he prayed that I would see a miracle.  This happened during a time that youth sponsors were supposed to pray other the youth, but God sent him to me to encourage me, the youth sponsor.

God used Kyle like I pray that He will used me.  We need reminders:

  1. God loves.
  2. God works.
  3. God wants to redeem and reconcile.

Will we participate?  Will be changed to be more like him?  I hope our brains reveal that our lives are lead by Jesus.

Storms by Amy

Once upon a time when I was in college, I started driving down the highway one night to get back to school, not realizing that I was driving straight into a very dangerous storm. Through my own stupidity, I kept driving instead of seeking shelter, despite how terrified I was. I found out later I’d driven through tornadic activity and a flash flood warning. How could I not have known the storm was coming? Simple — I didn’t check the weather before I hit the road, so I was unprepared for that which I didn’t know was coming.

More recently, I was going to drive from Indianapolis to Cincinnati after work, and there was a severe thunderstorm raging around us a couple hours before I was supposed to leave. I checked the weather multiple times and found that I would actually be following the storm along my drive. During my drive, there was no terrified feeling, no stress, and not even a few raindrops along the whole trip. I knew it would be a peaceful drive, because I had checked the weather. I was prepared.

A preacher I know used to say regularly in his sermons, “You’re either in the storm, coming out of one, or headed into one.” His intended meaning went beyond our known global weather patterns, just FYI.

Storms in this life are going to happen. We know this for a fact. “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12. But we sometimes still are surprised. But if we remain aware that storms will come, whether immediately or in the distant future, then we can be prepared and not be caught off guard.

So how can we be prepared?

Like the verse says, don’t be surprised.  Jesus said that the life of His follower would be difficult: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Let us also keep in mind that this life is merely temporary, as are its troubles.

And troubles will come.  Verse 13 continues: “Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” The Lord allows troubles to come our way because He knows what’s best. And yeah, His ways are higher than ours. I can cry out with all that is within me, begging God, “WHY?” and “I don’t understand!” And I have had some nights where I have done just that. Peace comes when I let go of the need to know why.  I’ve learned it’s called “faith” for a reason.

1 Peter 1:6-7, “ So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (bold mine)

James 1:2-4, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Trials, troubles, struggles, the problems of this life are not easy.  I’m not trying to make them seem insignificant in the slightest. But they will come.  When we have an idea of what is coming, we can be prepared for it, even though we can’t predict exactly what that will be. Remember that this life is not all there is. Our hope, our reward, our Lord is beyond it all and wants us to enjoy eternity with Him.

Romans 5:3-5, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

James 1:12, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

“Shame” by Amy

How readily are we willing to believe that grace is actually free and that God always welcomes back His prodigal sons and daughters who’ve strayed?

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve screwed up. When I think of Peter asking Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him and suggesting 7 times (Matthew 18), I wonder if Jesus chuckled on the inside because of how often our Lord must forgive us. When I read through some of the Old Testament history and see the Israelites making the same mistakes over and over and over again, I get so frustrated! They saw the very power of God in a pillar of fire, in splitting the Red Sea, in defeating all the nations who occupied the Promised Land, in a cloud of smoke covering a mountain they feared to approach! “What is wrong with these people??” I’ve wondered.

I daresay it’s not much different than what is wrong with myself.

The past couple months in my personal life have been a busy blur (you may have noticed poor Kendra has had to pick up my slack in not writing as often… I’ve not been a good partner). I started a full-time job, I moved into a new apartment 5 weekends ago, I’ve been travelling for the past 3 weekends, and every aspect of my life feels overwhelming. Someone will ask something as simple as, “Hey, did you go buy new work shoes yet?” And I want to collapse. I haven’t bought new shoes, because I haven’t made time for it and I’m waiting to make sure my finances have balanced out between moving expenses, needing to survive and eat food expenses, and then I’m behind on keeping my budget balanced because I’m trying to unpack and have a full-time job and a social life and… and… and… and now there’s a collapsed puddle of Amy on the ground.

Did you see anything in that crazy, rushed paragraph about prioritizing time with God? Yeah, there’s a reason for that. I haven’t. In all the setting up of a new job and a new place to live, a new routine hasn’t included regular daily time with my Lord.  And when that doesn’t happen, I feel guilty. And I allow that guilt to multiply until it weighs me down. Then I feel like God is mad at me and wouldn’t want me to pray or read His Word or even sometimes go to church.

I know that these are tactics of the enemy to get me to isolate myself. When I’m isolated, I’m weaker. We all are. When I’m disconnected from the Vine who gives life, I’m weaker. This is not an accident; this is an attack. And I know this. But that guilt still speaks louder than the truth sometimes. Or I am listen more to the guilt than the truth, because the Truth seems too good to be true. But the truth is I’ve been given grace by God; and I can’t take that grace away from myself.

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. Romans 8:10

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15-16

God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children. And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God made you His heir. Galatians 4:5-7

There is a newer song out there that always goes right to my heart. I think it’s because my Lord knows I struggle with thinking of myself as His daughter instead of as His servant and follower. If you don’t know the song “No Longer Slaves,” please follow this link. Let the words take over your mind in a fresh way. Believe that they are true. The Truth, the Word of God, that is our sword, and that is how we fight back when the enemy attacks.  

I had to read through those verses several times before the truth could speak to me louder than the guilt.  I’m no longer a slave to guilt. I’m not a slave to fear. I’m not a slave to my sin or my backsliding. God gives me so much grace; I do not get to decide that I’m not worthy of that grace. I’m not perfect, but I am a redeemed child of God. And no scheme nor entity can take that away. Ever.

When God doesn’t give the answers…

I (Kendra) know that Jesus wants me to trust Him.  He wants me to come to Him with my wants and desires, and He wants me to be confident that He is redeeming the world.

I struggle.  I know that God is at work, but the redemption process can be uncomfortable and even painful.  Often, I prefer just getting what I want rather than what is the best.  Monday night was one of those moments.  I wanted to be completely healed, because I was concerned that the tumor was growing again.  On Saturday, I had an incident where I couldn’t speak.  I knew what I wanted to say, but the words didn’t come.  I was terrified the MRI would reveal tumor growth.  I didn’t want to attack the tumor more aggressively.   

I knew that I should trust God.  God is more concerned with changing me than giving me what I want. Therefore, I was concerned about the lesson He wanted me to learn.

I trust Jesus.

I believe God is good.

The Holy Spirit is working.

He would be with me and equipping me to follow Him.

Yet, I couldn’t sleep.

Shame said, “If you truly trusted God, you would be able to sleep.”

Guilt said, “You know you are not supposed to worry.”

Truth says, “Keep fighting.  Jesus is making you into what He wants you to be.”  

Even though shame and guilt were discouraging me, I knew I was on God’s side.  I will join Lauren Daigle and declare:

When You don’t move the mountains

I’m needing You to move,

When You don’t part the waters

I wish I could walk through,

When You don’t give the answers

As I cry out to You,

I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

Yes, God hasn’t yet moved my mountains or parted my waters, but He has given me strength to face them.  I am praising God that my brain is stable (no noticeable tumor growth), and my blood counts are strong.  As I learn to trust in Him, He gives me strength to rest in Him.

No matter the mountains that are in your way, Jesus wants to work through them.  Keep trusting Him.  Take your concerns to Him.  Confess your sins.  Replace shame’s lies with truth.  Be thankful.  And watch Jesus work.  His work is amazing.

Not Alone

Last year, she hated the Fourth of July.  When the fireworks started, we went inside.  This year, she enjoyed the lights and tolerated the noises while we were outside.  But when we came inside, she didn’t like it.  I (Kendra) convinced her to lay down in her bed, but she wasn’t ready for me to leave yet.

Although I was tired and thirsty, I continued to sit and wait for sleep to come.  I know some would say that I didn’t need to stay by my daughter’s side.  I wanted to teach her that she isn’t alone in this world.  When things are different and scary, God is always here.  Sometimes, He sends someone our way.

As we waited for our neighbors to finished their celebration, I sang a song that my mom used to sing to me.

God made (insert name). Yes, He did.

God made (insert name). Yes, He did.

When God made (insert name). He made something good.

God made (insert name). Yes, He did.

And as I sing this melody over and over again, with inserting a different name each time, I realized that even at age 3, she is in a great community.

The difference between a hard life and a terrible life is your connection to the community.  In my life, cancer is hard, but not terrible.  My community has made it bearable.  I feel the love when I see frozen food in my freezer made with love, when I look at my flower garden (which I didn’t plant), and remember the people who have watched our daughter without being paid.

My heart breaks when others struggle alone.  I know God didn’t make us to struggle alone.  Sin lies.  It tells us that we are “too good,”  “too inadequate,” or any other lie to convince us that we are alone.  It wants you to believe that you have to save the world, but the world has already been saved.

My prayer for you is that you find those God sent to encourage you and that you encourage others.  The only thing that doesn’t change about life is that life will change.  Those changes can be difficult, scary, and fearful.  Don’t think you have to conquer life alone.

Are you free?

In America, we are celebrating the fourth of July.  Although there are some American who just celebrate this holiday, because they like to blow up things.  Most American celebrate the freedom from England.  We like to declare, “We are free.”

But we are not.  We are either slave to sin, or a slave to God.

John 8:34 “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.’”

Romans 6: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

If you study Romans 6, or Galatians 4, you will see that we are NOT free.  Sin or Righteousness controls us.

As a Christian, I (Kendra) am supposed to be controlled by righteousness.  I have been set free from sin, shame, guilt, and fear, but I still struggle.  Sometimes, I forget and I fall into the old ways.

This week, I had an opportunity to encourage a new follower of Christ.  She was dealing with shame, because she doesn’t know what God wants her to do with her life.  I hope I encouraged her my being vulnerable with my weaknesses.  After the conversation though, I kept thinking of things I wish I would have said. Things like the following:

  1. Even if you don’t feel it, Jesus has forgiven you of your sins.  When you feel shame or guilt, learn from your mistakes, and stand back up.
  2. Find truths in the Bible to combat Satan personal lies. Satan knows my weakness.  He knows I feel inadequate.  I have verses that I turn to when he starts lying again.
  3. You are a slave to Christ.  Focus on obedience today, not your failure from your past.  You can’t change that, or your fears of tomorrow.  Pray about them and allow Jesus to make your future good.

We can trust our Master.  We should come to Him with our desires, and our Master will listen and respond in a good and loving way.  He treats us with love, because of His character, not because we earn it.  

Grace

“It’s growing again.”  Three words I (Kendra) never want to hear again.  That last time I heard it was June of 2016.  Since then, I have been overwhelmed with a wide range of emotions: anger, fear, thankfulness, jealousy, love, and so much more.

This year has changed me.

I question what I can do.  This seems to me that I do stupid things more often, like I keep interchanging numbers.  I am not as comfortable in the kitchen, because I use the wrong burner often.  I struggle following directions like new recipes or driving directions.  I lose focus quickly. During VBS, I wanted to quit teaching.  Every time I couldn’t find the words or used the wrong word, Satan would whisper, “You CANNOT teach anymore.”

But I am learning how to replace Satan’s lies with the truth.  My brain may make things seem impossible, but I serve a God who does the impossible everyday.  My brain may disappoint me, but my God does NOT.  The more I deal with this tumor, the more I realize the truth in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by my weakness.  Sometimes, I want to quit.  Sometimes, I don’t know how to keep going.  In those moments, God often sends me a reminder of His grace.

His grace reminds me that my God can do anything He wants.  His grace reminds me that I am loved, even at odd times.  Recently I was at a funeral.  The speaker said the deceased was overwhelmed by God’s love.

And the small voice in my head said, “I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by anything other than My love and grace for you. You don’t have to wait until you die, either”

Christians, we will experience God’s grace at our judgement day, but He wants more for you.  He wants to strengthen you every time you feel weak.   

“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