Cindy: “God took my never​s’ seriously”

Hi friends, I’m here with the delightful Cindy Kettle. A dear mutual connected us at our home church during the latter part of my mom’s illness (read more about that here). She prayed for us and my family will never forget how she was heaven-sent with her help at my memorial service we held for my mom. 

I’m looking forward to discussing more about her life, her testimony, and more.

Meet Cindy, everyone.

I mean full disclosure here: but you are my boyfriend’s mom actually— or as one of my friends actually call you my future “MIL” (mother-in-law) or mom. You and I connected many months before Matthew came along! You raised the man I love, so you are an automatic favorite of mine no matter what. I love you and Dan (husband) and it’s been so fun getting to spend time together. 

Debbie, you are truly an answer to prayer! Matthew is so blessed to have you, a truly Godly young woman who loves the Lord and serves Him so faithfully! From the start, after we had met, I asked the Lord on how Matthew could meet you… I couldn’t see it happening, since he is ministering up in Alhambra (LA area) and is going to school.. He usually wouldn’t come to our church.

Should we just get out of the way this fun set-up story of how Matthew and I came to meet? We all know I’m excited to talk about that [laughs]

Pastor Mike said, “These two have to meet!” I couldn’t believe it and I told him how I’ve been thinking the same thing all these months! Mike said your dear friend Margo had the same thought! He arranged for you two to be at a dinner at he and Hannah’s home.. Dan and I had the privilege of being there and to witness the beginning of a beautiful relationship! The Lord orchestrated the two of you to meet… to happen!

Mike was so incredibly proud of Matthew, I’ll never forget the day he asked me if I was interested in meeting him. Mike, always keeping others on their toes, told me about Matthew’s life, all of his wonderful qualities before actually telling me who this guy actually was [laughs]… 

And we have been praying for Matthew to meet you for many, many years! He had been discouraged how it seemed like everyone around him during college had someone, but I just continued to encourage him that maybe God wanted him to just focus on school for now and  he would meet “her” outside of school, at church… and then I had prayed with a friend who had known Matthew since he was young and she said that maybe his wife would be someone from his past? And here you are! Such a blessing. We are glad to be gaining a daughter.

Awwww. Well I am so flattered and so very blessed. It’s kinda ridiculous how we’ve all taken a liking to each so quickly. I see you and Dan more than Matthew does actually. Haha.

Now, we can go on and on about Matthew for hours (at least I know I can) [laughs]– but I want to get talk about you and a little more about your life.

So, tell me how you spend your days?

Daily, I start by being in the Word and praying. Then I am off and running! My days look different now, since I am retired and have an empty nest. There are days the Lord sends people He wants me to connect with and sometimes they contact me and I learn about their life situations and needs.

God blesses me with the ability and time to serve them through prayer, and at times, actually to “be there” for them in whatever way is needed… visits, meals, shopping, errands, etc. Flexibility is a blessing at my current stage of life!

That is so sweet. I love that you are so open to what God wants you to do in this season. I have seen first-hand how you so lovingly care for your family and I know you strive for excellence in all that you do, because that’s just who you are.

You are originally from Hawaii. Born and raised. Now how did you come to CA? Can you talk a a little more about your life in Hawaii and career as well?

 Hah! Well God took my nevers…I was content to be a gerontological social worker… to never marry….to not have children…I was completely content! I was settled!

[Laughs] God likes to do that a lot. I said never to a pastor! Well, then someonecame into life and your life took a turn didn’t it?

Dan entered my life when I least expected it!! He was stationed in Hawaii and we together for 2 years before we married. He had to leave for CA so that is how we arrived in Oceanside. Soon after, Matthew came along and God gave me a new career: MOM!

I left my career back in Hawaii, and was blessed to be a full-time mom to my one son, who has always lived up to his precious name, Matthew: “Most Precious Gift of God”

Then, Dan responded to the Lord’s call to serve Calvary Chapel Oceanside… a new calling on my life, from being the wife of a marine, to being a pastor’s wife.

Pastors wives have a special place in my heart. They are all so different and come from so many backgrounds, and support and care for their man as he serves the congregation. How do you feel your background in social work has helped you minister to others at church?

Social work taught me to appreciate how to uniquely and preciously made God’s children are. When God leads me to help someone, my desire is to understand theirperspective of life events that are ongoing. Getting an idea of theirstory, history… it gives me a glimpse into how they are coping with their life events. My hope is to meet each person’s need as the Lord has led me to minister to them.

Can you discuss a little bit about how you came Christ and He changed you?

I was a 21-year-old student that was on “cruise control” for far too long in my freshman and junior years at the University of Hawaii. Suspension from UH was the wake-up call that I needed. It was ingrained early in my childhood that college was a given and not a choice– so suspension was utterly devastating. God found me in that broken place, in the midst of depression and anxiety.  And then, Julia through Campus Crusade, prayed for me one day on campus… I’ll tap her on the shoulder in Heaven someday, and thank her!

That’s so wonderful. It must be crazy about all the time that has passed since that day. And all that God has done in your life since.

 In the time we’ve known each other, I’ve seen how much you have a love for God’s Word. Can you tell me how you go about studying the Word? How does that look for you?

The Scriptures are indeed alive and available to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, to exhort, teach and mold us. The Lord uses His word to teach me about Him, His character, and as Kay Smith always taught– How to leave to please Him! My desire is that I continually grow to be who He desires me to be… to live for Him… and to please Him!

For my personal study, I have a song set on my phone or I use our Amazon Echo to play praise and worship songs. Then prayer, and I dive into God’s Word.

Personally, studying God’s Word in a group setting keeps me accountable. I appreciate structure and time frame to completing Bible studies. It helps me to keep on track and dig deeper! I also love to hear how the Lord speaks to other members of the group through the study, it is so very enriching! I love when the formal group studies include digging deeper into the background behind the Scriptures for the week.

Lastly, can you speak on the different seasons of life and how studying God’s Word looked for you in each one? As a single woman, then married and then as a young mom!

 As a mom of a baby… of a toddler… it was difficult. Time and energy were at a premium and there seemed limited, if any, amounts left for Bible study.

Yet, I was parched and not able to function in the godly manner that I couldn’t accomplish on my own. It was easy during that time to lose perspective, being mired in the busy-ness!

Similarly, when I began working full-time when Matthew was older, many times I came home exhausted, trying to fulfill my roles as wife and mom to a teenage son… without God’s Word and time at His feet, I kept running into a wall! The enemy planted depression, frustration, anxiety, guilt– I was exhausted!

 I learned a very important lesson: being at His feet, first and foremost, changed everything. God will bless and multiply time if you honor Him first in your day. He will allow you to accomplish all that He would have you to do in your day. God is in control and sovereign. I had to learn, I am still learning to daily turn over the reins to Him and let Him reign!

====================================

Well folks, I think I just fell in love with Cindy all over again while putting this blog post together. I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s not hard to do. Others are quick to say, that she is one of the most thoughtful and genuine people you’ll come to meet.

 She’s pretty fun too and has the most contagious laugh. A fun fact would be that she and I realized that we… are lacking a sense of direction. Honestly, like I think east is west and I can’t get anywhere without my maps app. Once, I got lost in a mall with Cindy and it took me a half hour to get us out of the mall… and it took her another half hour to remember where she parked the car. Also, we both laugh pretty easily and love reading!

Enjoy this picture which accurately describes our relationship (and lack of direction… why am I pointing to the sky?! I guess some of us are more challenged than others.):

 

September 2017: “People Keep Telling Me I’m Tough…”

When my mom spends a day at the doctors, we usually fill the entire day with back-to-back labs, appointments and IV treatments. There’s usually some down time in-between all of these, so we spend some time waiting. I bring my books and my laptop. She’s good with her phone.

I think her oncologist knows our family by the number of things we carry with us into the office.

you know it’s bad when the medical assistant says, “I’ll grab an extra seat for your things”

On an average day, we’ll have at least 5 bags. I’m not even kidding. 2 purses, snack bag (because food = priorities), emergency bag (clothes and things of the sort), a cooler (with mom’s favorite juice, yogurt and lunch.. yes, food again). I used to fight mom about how ridiculous it was to bring everything because we don’t even use half the things (“Why can’t we leave the emergency bag in the car? Why are you carrying bricks in your purse?”). But, alas, I realized that having these things with us made her feel safe and secure. That’s fine by me.

So… here we are at the elevator, I hit the elevator button “up” with my elbow to take us to the third floor. My arms are filled with bags, as mom holds onto to my elbow for stability. (What stability? I think I am about ready to tip over with our things–)

Laboratory. We sit and wait. Doc appointment #1. Then, some more waiting. IV treatment next…. Doc appointment #2…

During the waiting, I power on my computer and stare at a blank blog page. I need to write something to follow up the post on mom’s cancer. But what about?

Mom sets down her iPhone and I set aside my books— we try to brainstorm on what to write about next. I ask her questions on her perspective of her illness, treatment and daily life, in an effort to come up with some new topic. We talked about faith, we talked about family… it was neat practice to recall the events of the past few months.

Then it hit us, Why not write about this? Can’t we share our conversation?

So, here my friends, is an edited, impromptu interview/conversation of a few of the things we talked about that day.


Debbie: Okay. Let’s talk about things. You were originally diagnosed in December.

Teresa: Yes— we’ve come a long way, it was in my brain and eye then, radiation took care of that. I take morphine daily, there is always pain in my body and I can’t drive anymore because of the medications [she takes]. I am a lot weaker and my eyesight is not the same. I keep hearing the word “terminal” a lot but I’m not ready to be labeled that. I don’t want to die with this illness.

Debbie: How about treatments and care? They’ve been working well because we are now in September, which is more time than we ever thought we would get when we got the news in December. 

Teresa: We are really fortunate and blessed to have insurance and care. We go to Scripps [in San Diego] and right now I am on Gefitinib, it is a chemo tablet that I take once a day. My cancer cells respond to that to “freeze” where my illness is, the doctors say. For topical pain, I use CBD cream and oil which really really helps the pain. I also use those sublingual CBD drops. It is very good for healing.

Debbie: How are you feeling about all this?

Teresa: I’m just so very tired of being tired. I cry. A lot of times I am tired of fighting…. I want to be here with you and dad. With my daughters. I don’t want to die with this illness. I know God has the power to heal me. But I know I should want God’s will for my life, and I am learning to be ok with whatever He wants. It is hard. Waking up with pain is hard.

Grabe ka lisod. Grabe. [She says this in Cebuano; translation: This is so very very hard]

Debbie: We’ve been talking a lot about our faith. We are Christians, obviously. But will you talk a little more about how integral our faith is to our lives? 

Teresa: Without Jesus in our lives, I can’t imagine my life. I always say, without Jesus, without Him, where else would I go? Jesus died for our sins, He went to the cross, so I could experience eternal life and a life with Him apart of it. 40 years walking with Christ and I cannot imagine it any other way.

Debbie: We’ve had a lot of support, from our faith community, like prayers, from loved ones. Plus, a few kindred spirits get to be apart of our everyday lives via text and phone calls. How does this encourage you? 

Teresa: Knowing that others are praying for me really comforts me. Also knowing that others have gone through medical experiences like me, helps me feel that I am not alone. I’m surprised by who God is using and how he is using them to minister to me. You’ve learned who your true friends are through this too, Deb. 

Debbie: Yes that’s true. It’s been an eye-opener for me. I’ve been hurt, but I’ve also been so very blessed by who has stuck around even if my life wasn’t fun. A crisis reveals your truest friends. I am thankful to know who they are. I am surprised by it! But the truth is, my greatest comfort is Jesus- He is the best, my closest friend ever. He heals my heart and never gives up on me. 

Debbie: So, mom, what can people keep you in prayer for? 

Teresa: I believe the trauma from all the change left me with depression. That’s what people call it. I never used to believe in depression- It comes and it goes— I feel like giving up and I am just used to crying everyday—

Debbie: … but you always come back. It just, the fight. It is so very hard. I’ve noticed the fight to get out of your darkness gets longer it seems. 

Teresa: Yes. It is a thin line to trust God and be still and then to be filled with fear and panic. So I suppose prayer for that. The physical pain also affects the depression and it is very hard to distinguish the two sometimes. 

(Here she flips and asks me a question, instead!)

Teresa: How about you, Deb? It [my depression] affects you? Are you depressed too? You had to stop school and your life all for me.

Debbie: I don’t know. I am for sure not going through anything as difficult as you are, but yes I get sad a lot if that’s what you’re asking. 

I used to think I had to be strong for everyone and that meant hiding my emotions and never addressing them— you are so tough, mom! You would never seem to flinch in hardship when I was growing up —  but I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best thing to do for me. I don’t know. I’m not there yet.

*laughter* I’ve been saying I don’t know a lot these days— I am still figuring things out. 

Teresa: Yes, we really don’t know much about our future or anything for that matter. I wish I could be stronger to help you. Except we know God is faithful. Even if we do not understand, our relationship with Jesus is what we can hold on. 

Debbie: Your passion for telling others about Christ is so very apparent in your life. You are so very disciplined and laser-focused and tough and… strict— I can say that, right? Yes, I can. *laughs* And it is apparent in ALL areas of your life, and I love that you devote that discipline in your walk with Christ. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for that. You taught me to run hard and fast to Jesus. 

Teresa: You know, people keep telling me I’m tough, but I really don’t know what they are talking about. I’m just being myself. I guess I am tough, huh? I am different now, so wobbly and weak. I am just surviving on God’s strength. 

Debbie: You’re still so very brave. You following God out of love and discipline has become such a knee-jerk reaction that you always go back to it. What you said [about strength] reminds me of that verse in Isaiah 40 that talks about renewing our strength like eagles-

“But those who wait on the Lord

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.”

Teresa: God’s Word is all we have. It is good medicine. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me when I am overwhelmed though. Has that happened to you? 

Debbie: Oh yes. I hear that is normal. I feel that way too sometimes. Just cling to your one special verse and work through it. You have a special verse for this season you said. That would be a good place to end. Would you like to share it? 

Teresa: Yes, it is Isaiah 41:10. I get so fearful with test results and scans, everything is so uncertain. I get afraid when I feel alone that God reminds me, FEAR NOT.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”

Debbie: Thanks, mom. I know things aren’t ideal, but you’re doing such a great job in the midst your incredible difficulty. I hope I make you proud!