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

We are Broken

We have tried.  Others have tried.  Amy has joked that even the psychiatrists have given up. That’s mostly part of her defense, which employs comedy as a smokescreen. But it’s impossible. We can’t be fixed.  We are going to be broken.

I (Amy) tried to fix myself and become what I was expected to be: a young lady, a good Christian, a perfect student, now a respectable professional, good-humored and witty, and crowd-pleasing. But I can’t fix myself. I can’t be perfect.

I (Kendra) tried to a wonderful wife, responsible mother, and generous volunteer.  But I keep on sinning and wasting time.  I would love to know that I was perfect, and that all my problems were caused by someone’s else. But they weren’t.  I can’t be perfect.

Friends, with the best intentions, have also tried to fix us when they notice we’re broken. They offer their best advice. They encourage us with their hugs. They talk with us, trying to come up with a plan of action, because they care and want to help.  But they can’t fix us. We’re just broken.

We are okay with being broken.  Christ knows we are broken and weak.

Each time, He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

But on the days when you notice our brokenness more than usual, will you still be our friend?

Anyone can be friends with the person who makes you laugh. Anyone can be friends with the person who is a deep-thinking conversationalist. Anyone can be friends with the life of the party.  But there will be times when our brokenness is more outstanding than our good qualities. We will need to know that you still accept us for who we are: brokenness, struggles, and all.

We know that we are a work in progress.  That someday, God will finished His masterpiece (a.k.a. us).  And we are waiting for that day.

Ephesians 2:10  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Lamentation 3:25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Will you offer grace to others work in progress?

Terrifying

Have you ever tried to tap out a familiar tune so that others could guess it?

Many people find it more difficult than they would imagine.  In an EntreLeadership podcast, Adam Grant talked about an experiment, where they had asked others to tap out a familiar tune, and only 2.4% (1 out 40 people) listeners were able to identify the song. He continued to explain that even though you have thought through this idea, it is still difficult to communicate that to others.

As a communicator, the statistic of 2.4% is terrifying.

In the post “Please Pray,”  I asked for opportunities to publicly share my story; therefore, I am speaking at a women’s retreat in April.  (If you would pray about this opportunity, I would appreciate it).  I fear the task of speaking to women that I don’t know where they are: spiritual maturity, life experience, etc.  How do I best communicate to them?  

But I have something that those trying to tap out a song don’t: a message that the Holy Spirit wants to deliver.  Whenever I recognized that I am overwhelmed, I have been running to God.

I have been reminding myself: God loves me, He trusts me, He has given me this opportunity, and He is not leaving me.  The lesson I have learned over and over is that when I am outside of my comfort zone, I see God more clearly there. Therefore, I am grateful to speak at this women’s retreat (and still terrified), because I trust that my God will reveal Himself.

I challenge you: if you want to see God work, ask God to lead you out of your comfort zone.  He’ll be there too.

Matthew 28:18-20 says, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

P.S.  I am still praying for opportunities to tell my story.  If you have some, please email me at kendra@strongerwithchrist.com

Old Injuries

 

I never was very athletic in my younger days, but I have friends who have to wear a brace or need to ice certain joints after exerting too much effort nowadays. I find as I continue my interpreting career, I need to wear a brace on my wrist to keep away injuring myself from overuse. Seems it’s just something that I’m going to have to maintain and take extra care of for the rest of my days, however long God chooses to let that be.

 

I’ve written before about letting our emotional injuries heal over and become scars, instead of dwelling on them and picking at them so they cannot become more than scabs.  My old emotional/mental injury that inspired that post has flared up recently.

 

Usually, I’m rather appreciative of the memories that timehop and facebook offer to look back on what’s happened in years past: old jokes, milestones, how day-to-day life has changed for me personally, etc. But for a few weeks now, there has been some featured memories that aren’t so pleasant to recall. What’s worse is the memories I see now were happy stories at the time.  The hurtful ones are coming later. There’s something to look forward to, right?

 

To say that this pain hasn’t been making surprise guest appearances until recently would be incorrect. But certain buried memories have been triggered, therefore the old wounds have been more keenly painful and difficult to deal with. I wish I could tell you, my friends, that I handled the pain as well as I would like, with maturity and faith and Scripture. The truth is that I allowed myself to be washed over with mourning and be lost in it.

 

I can’t tell you if that was right or wrong.  I do know it would have been wrong for me to try to ignore or suppress what I was experiencing; that only bottles it up to become an unnecessary outburst later. I think it was the right thing to do, because I believe it’s part of the healing process. But now I find that I’m facing my old dilemma of wallowing in the pain for an unhealthy long amount of time instead of redirecting my attitude, thoughts, words, and actions.

 

I know that life happens in waves. Sometimes we are on top of the world and all’s well.  Sometimes we feel like we are at the lowest point possible and will never rise again.  This ebb and flow is normal.  I think it’s how we handle the low points that shapes our character. So I add pressure on myself to respond maturely when I feel low or insecure. That’s not exactly helpful.

 

I know this pain will not be forever. But for now, it feels like I bear this pain alone, and every day that I choose to get out of bed and try again is a victory.  I choose to press on, if only because I know that I must.

 

Several months ago, I started keeping a list (because I love checklists…it soothes my hyperactive brain) of verses that speak encouragement to me. We humans are a forgetful sort, and I can claim even more forgetfulness than many people (I think that’s why God made me blonde). These verses are helpful to remind me of His Truth when I’m at my low points and can’t think things will ever get better.

 

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, But God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.- Psalm 73:26

 

When doubts filled my mind, Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. – Psalm 94:19

 

Each time, He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now, I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

The LORD is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in Him. –Nahum 1:7

 

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. –1 Peter 5:7

 

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.- Philippians 4:6-7

I’m still downright tired. And it feels like it’s just getting worse. My motivation is lost. The tiniest details sets me into a downward whirlpooling spiral of negative thoughts.  Everything is hard right now. I press on because I have hope in a Savior who sees my pain, sees my little problems, and loves me in my weakness and frailty.

Tired

 

“Tired” ?

 

I feel tired.  So. Very. Tired. I’ve felt tired for a couple weeks now. Sure, there’s reasons for it. I’m working too much, I’m filling weekends with obligations instead of rest, I haven’t had a proper Sabbath, and life just doesn’t seem to want to take a break. And I’m not just physically tired. I’m mentally tired, as work responsibilities and personal relationships and a never ending to do list, all while trying to keep up with loved ones flips through my head in an unceasing loop. I’m emotionally tired as I watch the world fill with more anger and hate and intolerance and the response of those outraged by all that I’ve just mentioned.

 

I’m just plain tuckered out, y’all. Perchance you can relate?

 

We can’t just stop though, can we? There’s just too much that has to be carried on that we can’t stop.

 

Something interesting came about the past couple days in the midst of my being tuckered out.  God still presented opportunities for me to do Kingdom work. Sometimes, I didn’t realize what was happening until I was in the midst of it actually happening. But I found my prayers looking something like this…

 

“God, I don’t have the energy for this. Please, not today.”

“I really don’t want to be here. Would You make something happen so it’ll happen another day?”

“God, there is no way I can get through this.”

 

And I think that’s the point. It was in those situations, when I was begging God to put it off to another day or telling Him how tired I am (as if He didn’t know), that I found myself not only sustained but energized, because the Spirit was working. He was still using me. Perhaps something was trying to emphasize how tired I am as a distraction so I couldn’t participate in my Lord’s plans that I didn’t know of yet.

 

Background info: I set a New Year’s resolution to read, study, and put into practice one spiritual discipline per month this year.  March’s discipline: fasting, focusing on depriving myself of physical energy intake and depending on God to sustain me. Jesus says to His disciples, just after talking to the woman at the well, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about…My nourishment comes from doing the will of God…” (John 4)

 

I don’t say this expecting to put a tiny bandaid on a gaping wound and expect everything to suddenly be hunkydory. I know that I am in need of rest. And I have planned a day coming up. But like many things, this isn’t a one-time fix.

 

When the time comes that you feel completely tuckered out and that there’s nothing more you can give, tell Him about it. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank HIm for all He has done.” Philippians 4:6. He knows you’re tired.  Ask for His help in that moment. Our loving Father doesn’t ignore His children. Your tiredness, your distractions, your frustrations, they may be trying to draw your attention away from something the Spirit is calling you to in the moment.

 

But you can’t continue forever tuckered out and not making time to rest. Make sure it’s not just physical, but emotional and mental rest too. You may be finding yourself needing a break from social media and the news for awhile, like myself. For me, healthy rest is sleeping in without an alarm, spending a good long time reading my Bible and chatting with God, and having no to do list, other than the absolute necessities (chores do not count…but I know that is a luxury few have). Make time for rest, whatever works best for you;

 

Just one more thought to hopefully encourage you in the upcoming week. I felt reminiscent as I was driving the other day, and I put in an old Relient K CD from my high school days. The lyrics fit perfectly with this post (that I hadn’t even been able to think of up to that point).

 

Never underestimate my Jesus.

You’re telling me that there’s no hope;

I’m telling you, you’re wrong.

Never underestimate my Jesus.

When the world around you crumbles,

He will be strong.

He will be strong.

 

God’s grace and peace be with you all as you persevere, one day at a time.

Where is Truth?

Sometimes, we need to tell our feelings the truth, and sometimes it is hard.  This week it has been hard.  I wish I could have slept through it.

I was stressed about chemo.  I was supposed to get my blood drawn on Friday the 24th, so that I could start Friday the 3rd.  I decided to go grocery shopping as well.  I went into town on the 24th, got groceries, and went home.  Notice that I didn’t go the the lab, and this lab has certain business hours.  I couldn’t give my blood until Monday, which slowed the process down.  As of Thursday at 4:00 p.m., I hadn’t communicated with the pharmacy.  Even then, I was able to start on-time (but I was frustrated with myself).  I couldn’t blame the health system, the doctors, the pharmacy.  I had failed.

I started chemo with a positive outlook, but it wasn’t long until it disappeared.  The abdominal cramps that I normally have wasn’t the problem.  I was tired.  It didn’t matter how many naps I took.  I was tired.  Then my dishwasher broke, and my daughter became sick.

Although I survived, Satan’s lies thrived.  “I was NOT doing enough.  If I was smart enough, I wouldn’t feel this tired.  I am failing.  I should be doing more for my sick daughter.” Etc.

On Wednesday, I tried to worship.  It seemed to help while I was singing, but when I stopped, the lies invaded again.

I knew something was wrong.  I knew I needed the truth.

I opened my Bible.  This time, the words were just words.  As I read them, I would forget them.  I was mad at myself, my husband, and the world for making my little one sick.

On Friday, I asked Amy to speak the Truth into my life, and she did.  She confirmed that life is hard.  I am valuable.  Keep fighting the good fight.

A friend of mine, who suffers from depression, once told me that she has two friends that she could call when she can’t pray.  I didn’t understand “can’t pray”, but I have learned there are times with fear, anger, guilt, or even just shame builds up and you need help.  I get it now.

It is hard to admit that you can’t do something on your own.  My daughter likes to ask for help on tasks that she is “doing on her own.”  She wants to feel that she is independent but still receive help.  

The more I live, the more I realize we were designed to live together.  We need people – people that will speak the truth with love for us.  We are here to help.

Galatians 6:2 Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.

Ephesians 5:19-20 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage and build one another up, just as you are already doing.