Bio-Notes . . . Chris Jenkins had two grandmothers who prayed for her always, and that’s who she credits with having introduced her to Jesus Christ as a child. She related to us having walked away from her conversion experience as a teen, but being brought back to Him because of stormy times in her life. Chris grew up in Kelso, and graduated from Kelso High, married Tary at a young age and began a family, focusing her energies on her home, marriage and children, while working outside the home as well.
Chris and Tary enjoy camping in their RV, which they bought when Chris was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago now. They were intentional, as Chris wanted something to look forward to after her surgery, chemo and radiation. Their currently favorite campsite is one close to home outside Castle Rock at the Toutle River RV Park, but they also enjoy going toward the beach as well. Other fun activities for Chris include knitting, reading and enjoying grandkids. A favorite author is Joyce Meyer, who wrote, among others, How to Succeed at Being Yourself and Battlefield of the Mind.
The House: As we talked about, the March issue of The House is focused on weathering stormy times, and especially, how they can be an opportunity for spiritual growth. We remember you sharing some in the Monday Night Live Life Group about your experience of cancer survival. That can be the "definitive" storm of life idea for many of us. Do you feel like your experience has deepened your faith?
Chris: Yes, but it is not the roughest thing I’ve been through. That was another storm Tary and I weathered together. Thirteen years ago, our nineteen-year-old son died. The lessons I learned in my grief and despair are what help me keep my perspective as we continue to drive the cancer into remission.
The House: Did you find more of a sense of God’s presence during the time around his death, or is it clearer as you look back now?
Chris: When my son died, my grief was so great, I felt it could crush me, and even still, I make a conscious effort every day to give my grief and pain to Jesus to carry for me. I couldn’t let it crush me; I was forty years old, and my husband and I had two daughters, fourteen and fifteen at the time, to raise. I couldn’t, and still can’t, "bear" it, though. Jesus carried it for me. I know I will never be the same, but I feel I would have died without Jesus being there for me. Healing has come, but I am very in touch with how much we all need the Lord. During the worst times of grieving the loss of my child, or facing the challenge of fighting the cancer, my faith has been a gift to me. I know I had to choose it, but still, it was and is a gift to me.
The House: We are very grateful to you for sharing your story with us. It’s a privilege to hear about your journey.
Chris: I am grateful for an appropriate time and place to share it. I can’t "just share it" anytime. It’s too heavy to casually talk about in everyday conversation.
The House: What do you consider some of the gifts you have received through these experiences, beyond knowing how much we need God in our lives?
Chris: I am acutely aware, both with the death of a child and the cancer, of how many other people have it worse than I do. I don’t allow myself to have self-pity. The doctor has told us we must go on fighting this cancer for ten years, at least. We have one year done so far. The surgery, radiation and chemo are done for now, and I am taking cancer-fighting medication to continue the treatment until we can expect it might be beaten. One thing I do to fight when I’m feeling overwhelmed is to take one verse or a portion of Scripture and meditate on it. A good example is a simple one: Psalm 56:3 "When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you." I will find a verse, or phrase, and repeat it over and over throughout the day. This practice has brought me so much peace. It reminds me where I need to focus – not on the grief, or the pain, but on God. I would encourage anyone, no matter what the problem might be, to write down Scripture and put it in front of themselves, and meditate on it.
The House: Are there other times when you’ve used another way to focus on God?
Chris: When I was in treatment, everybody told me radiation would be the easiest part, but it was the most difficult for me. I was naked from the waist up, every day, with my arms up over my head. I felt so vulnerable, and as the machine passed over my body, all kinds of clicks and buzzers sounded. It was so unnerving . . . so . . . I filled my IPOD full of praise music, put my IPOD on, and listened to praise music during my radiation treatments, telling God, "I’m praising You!" And then, we had a new challenge: While I was in chemotherapy, I was very ill, and had to be hospitalized. While I was there, I dislocated a disk in my back, and had to wait several months for the surgery I needed, until the radiation was over. I had to rely on God during those painful months, until I could have the back surgery. I’m still in recovery from that, and relying, again, on God’s AMAZING GRACE. These words are not just a song title, or something we just say: His Grace is Amazing, and helps me to go on. Another thing I noticed was how when you’re looking for God in your situation, He’s there! During my treatments, at every turn, there were Christians there, in hospital staff; everywhere. God was there all along the way.
The House: Is there one other thing you want to say about weathering storms?
Chris: I have begun praying intercessory prayers for people. I use it a lot these days. I have empathy for people. I know what it is like to have hard things in your life. The Holy Spirit guides me to pray for people, and it’s a privilege and a blessing to do it. I also have been blessed with a husband, children and grandchildren who have given me lots of love. And, God. When I asked, He gave.