Kendra is a Neosho, Missouri native and is known as “Miss Hamilton” to her second grade class within the Joplin school district. I met Kendra in the fall of 2015. We were Education majors at Missouri Southern State University and our friendship budded in Language Arts class. I was mesmerized by her instant kindness and total inclusion of all people. Over the last year and a half, she has become one of my most cherished friends. Kendra’s smile and joy has captivated countless people. She is also the queen of gift-giving and a pursuer of people. Over the course of our friendship, her heart has continued to open up and deep conversations about God’s commands and faithfulness have flooded our friendship. Here is her story:
January 31, 2017
KENDRA: My parents got divorced when I was in Kindergarten. I lived in El Dorado Springs and when I was in first grade, my best friend Morgan moved to El Dorado. Her dad, Doug, was the preacher at the Christian church in El Dorado and we started going to church with them. In third grade, we moved to Neosho and Morgan’s dad and my mom got married and I was baptized. We started going to a church in Neosho, but they didn’t have much of a youth program, so we started going to First Baptist when I was in sixth or seventh grade. That’s where I met my friends and we grew up in that church. We were really involved in youth trips and events. We were still really involved in church during my high school years. When I moved to Kansas City for my first year of college, I didn’t go to church on a regular basis. When I moved back home after my first semester of college, Doug was preaching at a church and we started going there. The congregation consisted of mostly elderly people and it was a lot different than what I had been used to. Before, we went to the youth programming and they would spoon feed us lessons and Scripture. Now at this church that Doug was at, his sermons were great, but I didn’t feel like I could deeply relate a lot to the other members even though they were fantastic. I had to take a hold of my faith and put time in to learning more about God because I wasn’t able to be a part of youth programming or bible study…that’s when it became more of a relationship with God.
TAYLOR: What made you want it? A relationship with God?
KENDRA: I just feel like I wasn’t functioning without it. I mean, I’m an emotional person anyway, but I was extremely emotional. My boyfriend and I were fighting all the time. I wasn’t getting along with my parents or my sisters and everything else was coming down. I didn’t have anything else to do but go to God. I’d say for me relationship is the biggest part of my life. I’m an interpersonal person. Growing up, it was hard because my family wasn’t Christian and my mom was always a very loving person, but not, like, a Christ-loving person. We started going to church when I was in second grade and ever since then it’s been evident that Christ’s love is first. In third grade, my mom married my step-dad and since then they’ve shown me what a great marriage is supposed to look like. But I feel like those first few years are instrumental in how you create and keep relationships with people.
For me, that’s been the hardest part for me to have a relationship with Christ and have relationships with other people because I just keep wanting to go back to old ways. Once I’m hurt, I shut down and there’s no way to get through those walls. As a whole, I feel Christ has really restored my grace and forgiveness for people, especially lately. I’ve been working on not being so proud and also being vulnerable in my relationships. I’ve only seen it being done 100% of the time with Christ. I feel the most restored is in my graciousness towards people because nobody is Jesus – we’re human. For instance, with my boyfriend – I felt like he wasn’t leading me correctly and then at church the message was about how the ultimate leader is Christ and I realized, “Oh yeah, you are human. You are not always going to lead me the way I want – and again…that’s the way I want to be led, not the way Christ wants me to be led. We ended up having a good talk afterwards about how, yes, I should look to him, but furthermore look to Christ. I’m just always being reminded that I have these relationships here but my ultimate concern should be my relationship with Christ.
TAYLOR: When was the moment you decided to live for Christ?
KENDRA: I want to say it was during my freshman or sophomore year of college. I had great examples of Christians in my life and my parents were awesome, but I don’t feel like it became personal until I was a sophomore in college. I was still living with my parents, but I was old enough to where they weren’t going to make me read my bible or make me go to church. I had some awesome friends at Missouri Southern who were great examples of what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ. They helped push me to want to have that personal relationship.
TAYLOR: Earlier you talked about grace and how when you get hurt, you shut down. Would you be willing to talk about a situation that was hurtful in which Christ gave you a new mindset?
KENDRA: Awhile back, I was really let down by a couple people when they weren’t there for me when I was hoping they would be. For the first few weeks following that situation, I was really resentful because 1) I wanted it to be about me and 2) I just felt like they weren’t very supportive or loving because they didn’t show up when I was hoping they would. That was really hard because I was trying to be a light for them by the way I was choosing to respond. I just have a peace about it now because God was like, “I’m proud of you. I was there.” And for me, I feel like He reassured me that…yes, these people let me down, but He is always there. I feel like when I am disappointed with people and my expectations are broken, He is constantly reminding me that He is my Savior and my Father. He’s always there to bring peace and comfort. People who are going through cancer or loss of a loved one or any sort of hardship – I can’t comprehend how they get through it without Jesus because He is such a comforter. He can just come in and wash me over with peace.
TAYLOR: What are the characteristics of God that comfort you most?
KENDRA: Well, I started reading the New Testament again and thinking…like, He planned out Jesus’ sacrifice to a tee. At one point the officials could have arrested him and they didn’t and at one point they do. It’s just like every single baby step…God was there carrying it all out. And he did that for me. I have my classroom of kiddos now and I love them so much. I love my niece and nephew so much and I can’t imagine sacrificing one of them for everybody, ya know? So I guess the characteristic would be…sacrificial, maybe? Maybe just the fact that he did all of this so that we could go to heaven – so that all of our sins are washed away. It just blows my mind. And because of that, I know that He’s always going to be there for me and He loves me and that’s what gives me peace.
TAYLOR: What’s one of the most profound, if not the most profound, spiritual moments you remember? A moment you remember God meeting you in a situation?
KENDRA: It was actually one night when a group of us were together at [Friend A]’s and a dear friend poured out her heart to us and we all started praying for her and we were all praying at the same time. Growing up, I didn’t feel comfortable with prayer and really didn’t up until that night. [Friend B] and I were praying in our heads and you and [Friend A] were praying out loud and it just felt like powerful prayer to me. Since then, I’ve been more willing to pray aloud and have felt more confident in prayer. It felt like a tethering together of women who needed each other and were there for each other. God was present and powerful.
TAYLOR: What has Jesus helped you also turn away from and not look back?
KENDRA: The sin I’ve committed that was always a heavy burden on me…I’ve turned away from. There’s a peace there now though because it’s done and there’s nothing I can do about it. I just need to move on and live today like Christ would want me to and not worry. There was a thing on the radio today about how Satan is the one that gives us fear because he tries to get us down and get in our head and I just kept telling myself these fears and worries are not from Jesus. They’re from Satan trying to pull me down. There was one day, I woke up and was like, I can’t do this anymore and I gave it to God. Since then, I don’t think about it anymore. He’s been faithful to me the entire way. He’s helped me to not look back because…Jesus.
TAYLOR: What do you want people to know about God and about your faith?
KENDRA: Well, I want people to know that loving Christ and being a Christian is not the epitome of what stereotypical Christianity is often viewed as…it’s not going to church every Sunday and judging people and being hypocrite, ya know? Being a Christian is about really loving Jesus and knowing that through his amazing sacrifice, we have eternal life. Not only does it mean we get to spend forever in an amazing place, but it means we were loved more by this man than we’ve ever been loved…than we will ever experience love…than we will ever love someone else. He is the definition of love and because of that, I’m able able to have a relationship with God who loves me more than I will ever understand. That relationship is what gets me through day to day.