“Regardless of how bad things get, you can still be a joyous person…”
Kristen Fersovitch had more ornaments than she could find room for on her Christmas tree. Some were negotiated in and out each year, depending on how she felt. However, there were some non-negotiable ones. Kristen and her husband, Mike, had purchased ornaments for every special occasion in their lives. There was the one celebrating their first year of marriage. A baby ornament was added when their firstborn, Beckett, came along. Two more joined the first one with the arrivals of Tayven and Lincoln.
One other ornament had sentimental value, not because it commemorated anything special but because of its unique resiliency. It was a white wooden rocking horse. Kristen put it on her tree each year, and sometime during the Christmas season it would invariably get knocked off and break. Year after year the pattern was repeated. The horse was glued back together “a million times” according to Mike’s calculations.
The resiliency of the rocking horse matched Kristen’s own resiliency. In June 2011, at the tender age of 27, Kristen was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. She was given two years to live. It was her second cancer diagnosis. She had faced her first diagnosis and surgery with faith and courage. Now her resiliency would be tested again by this setback.
I’ve learned that the secret of every successful person, whether in business, athletics, love, finance or relationships, is resilience—the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Winners have the same problems others do, but they get back up while others stay down.
A rich, spiritual source of resiliency is joy, and Kristen had a contagious joy. God had blessed her with a singer’s voice and songwriter’s talent. She wrote songs about her trust in God, and her music inspired thousands of people. Kristen was a featured singer in the 2011 Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree. She candidly shared her story of cancer and faith in Jesus at each performance. An Edmonton Journal
reporter was dispatched to interview Kristen in December 2011 and noted what she interpreted as happiness. When I spoke to the same reporter two years later, the impression Kristen made on her was just as real. She reflected, “Kristen endured more hard times in a short time than many people see in a lifetime, yet she remained unflappably happy.”
Joy is a quality that is often disguised as happiness. But joy actually creates happiness. Joy is spiritual, not just emotional. It’s an attitude and an action. Feelings always follow actions. You can act your way into happiness faster than you can feel your way into happiness. The Bible tells us to rejoice in God. To rejoice is a choice. Joy originates in a choice to trust God. Rejoicing is looking for God’s influence in every situation of your life. Rejoicing in the Lord changes your perspective and outlook. Rejoicing supplies the energy required to sustain a comeback from any setback.
In June 2013, just four months before her life on earth ended, Kristen kept a commitment to sing at a prayer rally in Edmonton. Her body was weakened from cancer treatments. If she sensed her time was growing short, she never let on. She summoned the strength to get a day pass from the hospital and, along with her mom, Kathy, and sister, Kennedy, sang “The Lord’s Prayer” at the rally. People in attendance said they had never heard the prayer sung so majestically and joyfully.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV © 1984) encourages us to “… fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross ….” Kristen learned this verse as a teen, and it served her well all of her life. She could relate to Jesus. She drew strength from the same joy He focused on. She understood that Jesus was perfecting her faith, and that this “perfecting” was a stretching process not without its own kind of pain.
“There have been times when I’ve bawled my face off at the thought of my sons not having me. Regardless of how bad things get, you can still be a joyous person, and I know that personally. I think that’s something anyone can have.”
At one point Kristen was voicing her concerns to the Lord. “I was going on and on, and finally at the end of my prayer I remember saying, ‘Well, clearly You know more than I do, and I don’t understand, but I trust You. Your ways and thoughts are higher than mine. Just speak to me, Father. Bring me comfort.”
She flipped her Bible open, and her eyes fell on these words:
“ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9, 12a).
Kristen passed away on October 4, 2013. She went “out in joy.” Her life was like an ornament—on display for all to see. On the night before she entered heaven, she whispered out one last song to her husband, Mike. “I will praise Him! I will praise Him! Praise the Lamb for sinners slain; Give Him glory, all ye people, For His blood can wash away each stain.”
Kristen Fersovitch’s resiliency, joy and faith live on in many ways. One is through her music, Songs From Home
, which can be downloaded from iTunes. Her story, Ornament: The Faith, Joy and Hope of Kristen Fersovitch
, is also available as an ebook from amazon.ca.
Rev. Robert W. Jones is the senior pastor of North Pointe Community Church in Edmonton, Alberta. He blogs at http://blog.northpointechurch.ca.
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This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of testimony.
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