He is My Victory!
Kim Newlen, founder of Sweet Monday, is a devoted wife, mother, speaker, author and volunteer brimming with enthusiasm and encouragement. Even after more than a dozen years, Kim continues to host 30-70 women for Sweet Monday – women’s socials with an evangelistic touch—in her home each month. These fun and faith-based events have grown to over 450 outreaches around the world.
Sweet Monday’s mission is “reaching out to women one sweet invitation at a time for Christ.” Each gathering has a practical theme that includes a simple dessert and an evangelistic devotion. Older women have opportunities to mentor younger women and all encourage each other in a relaxed environment. Hostesses can adapt the resource materials Kim has written to make their Sweet Monday events a unique and powerful evangelistic tool. Visit www.sweetmonday.org for more information.
By the time Kim received her cancer diagnosis in 2004, many women were watching her life and following her example of trust in God. Cancer was a huge test. JBU talked with her about how she kept her ministry and relationship with Christ strong while coping with a serious illness.
How did you get through the difficult time of a breast cancer diagnosis?
I got through the difficult time of a breast cancer diagnosis IN CHRIST. No one could give me back my breast or hair or eyelashes or make me “cancer free” forever. By His great grace, when I first heard “abnormal mammogram” from my doctor while sitting in the Sweet Monday office, I was so grateful to know God. At the time, I immediately thought God knows about tumors and cancer cells. He knew mine were there before the doctors knew. If God wanted, He could have blinked them away. He didn’t. I have now experienced every extreme of breast cancer and reconstruction but death, and without hesitation, even with a “Frankenstein bosom” would say, I have experienced His peace, His joy, and His comfort. Through lumpectomy, mastectomy, full chemo and radiation, lymphedema, many stages of reconstruction, taking a little white pill for five years and all the ongoing “loose ends” in living with cancer, the Lord has been faithful. Romans 8:28 really is true.
What was the journey like with your family?
Focusing outwardly on my own family - my young daughter and husband, my family (my mother who followed me with cancer 6 months later) and of course, all the wonderful women in and out of Sweet Monday, and my personal responsibilities-- was therapeutic. God even gave me an idea for a post surgical camisole in the hospital when I came home with these awful drains and wanted to look better than I felt. Visit www.lookbetterthanyoufeel.com for more information on this special garment. I wanted and needed something feminine and I wanted my mom and others to have it.
I also believe a grateful heart goes a long way in counteracting despair and “a joyful heart is good medicine.” I am not a good faker. My biggest concern was my daughter. I did not have to try to “pretend” God’s care and faithfulness, comfort, peace, joy and love in front of my impressionable daughter who was 12 at the time I was facing cancer. What a relief! I think my family would also look back on the treatment and say; we not only survived but thrived. Several years later, while she was a junior in high school, my daughter called me on her cell phone and said, “Mom, we had to write about a battle today in English class. Any kind of battle and I wrote about your battle with cancer.
I was asked to read mine out loud to the whole class.” She then proceeded to read it to me over the phone mentioning my faith and I cried. It was worth cancer just for that. As I said before, more is caught than taught, and you and I cannot give out what we do not have. Even my eyelashes finally came back after falling out three times. It’s a little thing I know, but I remember vividly standing in front of the bathroom mirror saying, “Lord, I can live without eyelashes, but oh, I would love to have them back.” I couldn’t even see one in the magnifier. I told Him everything – every fear and doubt and laughed at every unexpected reference to “bosom” in the Bible like resting on Jesus’ bosom.
What would you say to the woman who has just found out she has cancer?
Lord willing, after a tight hug and shared tears and even a “show and tell” if it would help her (Oh, the things we women do for love!), I would want to say, “I am so sorry.” Yet on the other hand, if she is a follower of Jesus Christ, I would tell her the truth. It does set us free! “I am so happy that you know Him and can rely on Him and will have His Holy Spirit in you. He is the Best Encourager there is. He will give you everything you need as He promises.
Every day will be a new adventure in the treatment process, and so many wonderful relationships and many “bosom buddies” will develop in the medical world and beyond.” Like I told our daughter, “When all my hair falls out, don’t worry. It means the medicine is working and killing the bad cells with the good ones.” And then I would probably share all the little beauty tips I learned to still look feminine without hair and eyelashes. But most of all, I would tell her, she is never alone! No one could have been more surprised than me that I became bolder as I got balder. Being such a “girly girl,” I thought I would put the covers over my head and wait until I looked “normal” to come out. The opposite happened. I blossomed. Oh, the ways of God, who can fathom them?
How do you keep your relationship with God going strong in the midst of a medical crisis?
To all you sweet women just hearing sinking news, I would say what God says to us, “Do not be afraid.” Preach to yourself what you know is true. Preach out loud in the mirror if you need to. Say to yourself out loud, “Lord, I am afraid but you say, don’t be afraid. ‘Be strong and courageous’” (Joshua 1:9). He is with you wherever you go – in the MRI machine, in a dark hospital room or even standing beside a fresh grave. God loves us; He knows us and always has our best interest at heart. He still is our strength when we are weak.
How do you know when it’s time to take a break from ministry when you’re battling a health or any other crisis?
“The Lord directs our steps.” He will let us know when we physically must stay in bed (doctor’s orders), retreat from physical exhaustion, be hospitalized, take a walk, have a PJ day, or rest and retreat at home. Rest looks different for every woman! We need to ask God, and He will provide the wisdom to make these decisions. He is an ever present God. True ministry never really stops. It is just an outflow from a personal relationship with a living God. He may even surprise us and expand our borders. We minister best anyway from weakness! When I am struggling, I do not seek out the person who seems perfect. I seek the one who has suffered and is still holding tightly to the God of All Comfort!
How are you doing now and what is God teaching you?
Not to worry. He does not change. Sometimes I feel like I am going to pop with thanksgiving. I want to physically hug God. Waking up each day without Him would be awful. With all the discouraging world events and the economy, I count it a real blessing to sleep at night being a nonprofit ministry. Either way – in life and in death – I am a winner. This is what He is teaching me – He is my very great reward. (Genesis 15:1b) He continues to hone my eternal perspective and He has truly enlarged my love for women, too! Reflecting on God’s faithfulness is as fast acting as chemo! We are all dust and we need Jesus Christ, not just for cancer, but to live and love and serve even in the darkest of days. I long for all of us to know Him and love Him and sweetly serve Him. I will forever be your cheerleader this side of heaven!
Contact and Resource Information:
Kim Newlen, Founder and President
1006 Pump Road, “Sweet” 204
Richmond, VA 23238
www.lookbetterthanyoufeel.com - Learn more about the post surgical garment Kim designed.
www.prayingthroughcancer.com – a 90 day devotional for women with cancer.