Diagnosis: breast cancer
Life: just beginning
Her diamond caught the sun’s rays and refracted light across the room. She’d asked herself again and again: How could she be so blessed? Partner at a prestigious law firm and engaged to the man of her dreams . . . there was no doubt. God had smiled on Kendra Woods.
But the moment Kendra is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, her world collapses. Within days, her fiancé backs out of the wedding and the firm suggests a leave of absence during her treatment. Of all the roles Kendra has played over the years—daughter, sister, friend, student, attorney, bride-to-be—cancer patient seems the most unwelcome in the world.
When her path crosses with that of youth pastor Lance Alexander, Kendra only sees the troublemaker she knew in high school. But Lance could prove an unexpected spark in the darkness that covers her. Will Kendra be able to embrace a glimmer of hope?
Includes Reading Group Guide
“Hidden Blessings is a beautifully written, deeply moving story about a woman going through breast cancer. It reaffirms God’s lifting us up through our darkest times. I highly recommend this book and this author.” —Carrie Stuart Parks, breast cancer survivor and author of A Cry from the Dust
"With trademark understated elegance, . . . this emotionally charged addition to Tate's body of work is neither sappy nor trite." —Publishers Weekly
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
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About the Author
Kim Cash Tate is the author of The Color of Hope, Hope Springs, Cherished, Faithful, Heavenly Places, and the memoir More Christian than African American. A former practicing attorney, she is also a Bible teacher and women's ministry leader at The Gate Church in St. Louis. She and her husband have two children. Twitter: @KimCashTate Facebook: kimcashtate
Read an Excerpt
By Kim Cash Tate
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Kimberly Cash Tate
All rights reserved.
Kendra Woods hightailed it down the spiral staircase of Fleming & Stein to the K Street conference room as fast as her heels and the burden of a hefty legal file would allow. It wasn't like Grace to go into a client meeting unprepared, or for her legal assistant to let her. And Kendra had no idea why she'd been called upon to rectify the matter, since she wasn't an attorney on this case. But Buddy from the mailroom had poked his head into her office, said Grace needed the file ASAP, and asked if she could find it. And Grace was head of litigation and her boss of eight years, not to mention a trusted mentor. Whatever she needed, Kendra was happy to oblige.
She strode past offices and cubicles, the sound of printers and copiers still buzzing late on a Friday afternoon. Fleming & Stein was seldom quiet. One of the largest law firms in the world, the Washington, DC, office was its flagship, and business churned evenings and weekends as frantically as it did during "business hours." Kendra had been told in her first year of law school that she would never work here, to set her sights lower. At the time there was only a handful of black attorneys at the firm, and Grace was the sole black female partner. But the challenge had motivated Kendra all the more. And these halls were now like home.
Rounding a bend, she saw the shades drawn on the internal floor-to-ceiling windows of the conference room. She knocked on the door.
"Come in," Grace called.
Kendra opened the door.
Attorneys and staff filled a room teeming with colorful balloons, gifts, and the delicious aroma of hot appetizers.
"What is this?" Kendra said, taking it all in.
"What does it look like, silly? It's a wedding shower." Beaming, Grace relieved her of the file. "Thanks, I'll take that." She parked it on the floor.
A knock sounded behind her, and Kendra realized the door had been closed again.
Roger, head of government contracts, stepped forward with a Cheshire-cat grin. "Come in," he said.
Kendra's fiancé, Derek, entered with a file, too, and the room dissolved into self-congratulatory whoops and applause because they'd pulled the whole thing off.
Kendra joined him, giddy. "Can you believe they put together a shower for us?"
"Men get showers now?" Derek had a cute, confused look. He took Kendra's hand and leaned in. "Not with games and stuff, right? Because I'm buried with work."
Grace chuckled. "Yes, it's the twenty-first century, and men get showers at Fleming & Stein," she said. "That is, when they're marrying another attorney in the firm, thus making it a big celebration. They get champagne too." She put a half-filled glass in his hand, and one in Kendra's, and quieted the crowd.
"Many of you enterprising souls like Derek need to get back to work shortly," Grace said, "so Roger and I want to give a quick toast at the start. Maybe a glass of bubbly will give you the kick you need to get that work done."
"Hear, hear," one of the attorneys called, lifting his glass.
"Kendra," Grace said, "I've had the unique honor of recruiting you as a summer associate, bringing you on board after you graduated law school, helping you hone your legal skills—and watching you get swept off your feet by this fellow here." She smiled at Derek. "I have to confess that I always regarded the government contracts group as, well, unexciting."
"I take offense to that." Roger frowned in his humorous way.
"But ..." Grace smiled at Roger and turned back to Derek. " The just-because floral arrangements, the carryout dinners on long work evenings, the elaborate proposal ... Watching your courtship took my breath away. I can't wait until the wedding because I'm sure you'll have something wonderful up your sleeve." She raised her glass. "To Kendra and Derek, who've filled these offices with the beauty of romance and the promise of happy-ever-after and a gaggle of kids. Cheers!"
Derek's glass went up only partially. "Wait, we promised a gaggle?"
Laughter and a chorus of "Cheers!" filled the room as everyone raised a glass and took a sip.
"I admit," Derek said, "this is pretty nice." His arm slid around Kendra's waist. "And you look nice. I can't believe I haven't seen you yet today."
She felt flutters from his touch. "Your fault," she said, eyeing his dark and handsome face. "I tried to steal you away for lunch."
"And I almost went, despite my deadline." He squeezed a little tighter. "You know my day's not the same without you. We should share an office after the wedding."
Kendra laughed in her champagne glass. "I can see it now—totally distracted, no focus, fired by year's end ..."
He laughed with her. "True, true."
Roger stepped forward next. "I'll be brief since everyone knows I hail from the unexciting government contracts wing." He winked at Grace. "I knew when I stole"—he cleared his throat—"plucked Derek from one of our rivals a year and a half ago that he had special talent. But oh, the things I learned through that elaborate proposal. Who thinks to get a judge and jury involved? Who's able to get a judge and jury involved?" He eyed Derek even now, as if questioning. "This man knows what he wants, and he's got the skills to go after it. In Kendra, I think we'd all agree he got quite a prize." He raised his glass. "To the soon-to-be husband and wife, Derek and Kendra."
Loud cheers and champagne sips were followed by cries of "Speech! Speech!"
Kendra and Derek looked at each other, smiling. She nudged him. "You go."
Derek shrugged as everyone quieted. "I don't know what to say." He looked at Kendra. "I just love this woman."
"Aww," a few of the women chorused.
"Oh, stop it," one of the government contracts attorneys said. "You've set the bar too high already for the single guys."
Derek held up his hands in defense. "But how's that possible in a room full of overachievers?" When the laughter died down, he continued, "Seriously, thank you, everyone. I'm blown away by this show of love and kindness. Coming to Fleming & Stein was one of the best decisions of my life."
Kendra squeezed his hand, looking around the room. "I'm not an emotional person, but you all know I lost my mother last year to cancer, and my father's on a sabbatical overseas. I would've never thought a big firm could be like family, but in the years I've been here, that's what you've become." She scanned their faces. "I can't tell you what it means that you would do this for us." She swiped an eye. "Okay, really? I will not cry," she declared as another tear came. "Let me stop while I'm ahead, and just say thank you."
Grace hugged her, then turned to the crowd. "We'll open gifts soon, but for now, enjoy the food. Or get back to work!"
"Thank you, Grace, really." Kendra spoke above the rising chatter. "You're always there for me. I'm sure this whole thing was your idea."
"No way," Grace said. "I can't count the number of people in litigation who came to me about giving you a shower. We all wanted to celebrate with you. You're getting married, girl!"
"And it's starting to feel really real," Kendra said. "I've got my final fitting tomorrow."
"I'm going with you," Derek said. "Since it's the twenty-first century, the dress doesn't have to be a surprise."
"Uh-huh," Kendra said. "You're the one who didn't want to schedule pictures before the ceremony."
He conceded with a nod. "Who knew I was a traditional type of guy? I never thought so until we started planning this wedding." He linked fingers with her, pulling her close. "I can't wait for you to become Kendra Richards."
His whisper drew butterflies. "I can't wait to be Kendra Richards."
* * *
Kendra stood atop the podium in the dressing room, loving every angle of her gown in the mirror. She'd tried it on at least three times before, but now, so close to the date, it woke something new in her.
Her maid of honor, Charlene, circled her. "Classic. Elegant. Exquisite." She nodded, arms folded. "Killer. That dress was made for you, Ken."
The strapless silk sheath with a Swarovski-beaded bodice fit her five-foot-six frame like a glove. Kendra felt tingly looking at it. She'd never dreamed about marriage. Even back when she thought her parents had the perfect marriage, marriage itself wasn't uppermost in her mind. Her dreams had always been career driven. But what did she expect from marriage? What did she long for?
The bridal consultant had been checking every aspect of the fit. "It's just perfect," she said, "but it's formfitting"—she shook a warning finger—"so no fried foods between now and the wedding."
"Or rich desserts," Kendra said. "That's my weakness."
"Whatever." Charlene rolled her eyes. "You never gain a pound."
"Let me see if those adjustments were made to the veil," the consultant said, "and I'll also grab the undergarment you need." She looked at Charlene. "And I'll show you how to help Kendra with the dress on her wedding day, as well as how to bustle it."
"Awesome," Charlene said. "I'm so excited to be part of this."
Kendra smiled at her. "It wouldn't be the same without you."
She and Charlene had met the first week of the first year of law school at George Washington University and quickly became best buddies. The grind of working at a large firm kept them from seeing each other as much as they'd like, especially since Charlene worked in Baltimore, so wedding moments like this were a treat.
Kendra smoothed her fingers over the hand-sewn beading. "You think Derek will like it?"
"For him to like it, all that's required is that you be in it. That man is head over heels." Charlene sighed. "Why can't I find a man like that?"
"I told you I think you'll like his best man," Kendra said.
"He lives in Philly—several-point deduction," Charlene said, "but definite points for hotness, from the picture you showed. What does he do?"
"He's in banking."
Charlene looked impressed. "Kids?"
Kendra gave her a look.
"Then what's wrong with him?"
"I think he's been focused on his career, like all of us. Now everybody's feeling the itch to settle down." Kendra got an idea. "He'll be in town next week. The four of us can go to dinner."
"I'm not going on another blind date," Charlene said.
"How is it a blind date? This is prewedding ... stuff." Kendra laughed. "But that other blind date was hilarious."
"You mean Jared? God's gift to mankind? I should've stopped speaking to you after that." Charlene laughed with her. "And how is it you always get the nice, fine guys making big money, and I get the sidekicks, who always have a major defect?"
"Obviously the ones I dated had defects, too, because they didn't last."
"Um, no, hon," Charlene said. "They didn't last because you were working 24–7, trying to make partner. You and Derek must've been meant to be, because he landed right in your world at Fleming & Stein."
Kendra pondered that. From the beginning, it did seem meant to be, a whirlwind romance culminating in a memorable wedding. But the whirlwind and the wedding would pass. What kind of husband would he be? What kind of wife would she be? And why the anxious feeling all of a sudden?
Kendra shook it off. Prewedding jitters ... bound to surface.
Her phone chimed with a text message.
"Can you get that for me, Charlene?"
Charlene reached in Kendra's purse and handed it to her. Kendra smiled at Derek's text as the jitters evaporated.
Thinking of u. Love u. 21 days.CHAPTER 2
"I'd be getting kick ed out of the nest—prematurely." Lance Alexander's elbows rested on a tabletop in the St. Louis Bread Company, coffee cup in hand. "You said to give you my straight thoughts, right?"
"I did." Pastor Lyles gave a slow nod, the nod that meant he was considering every word. "You've done that from the beginning."
Lance nodded with him. That was certainly true. He'd told the pastor exactly what he thought when he met him as an inmate—that the gospel he was peddling was garbage.
Pastor Lyles added, "And I wouldn't want you to stop now. Tell me what you mean."
"Okay," Lance said. He tried a different metaphor. "It would feel like somebody stole my training wheels in the dark of night. I mean, I'd rather you took the whole bike." He got more worked up thinking about it. "To take the training wheels only? And expect me to ride, with no support?"
"On the contrary, Lance," the pastor said, "you'd have the full support of Living Word. You know that. That's the whole point of this church-planting endeavor—to send and support qualified leaders."
"And that's my point," Lance said. "I'm not qualified to lead a church plant. It took awhile to wrap my mind around leading the youth ministry at Living Word. But at least with that, I'm under the overall leadership of you and others at the church."
Pastor Lyles was nodding again. He sipped his coffee. "I'm sure you want me to be straight as well?"
"Hey, Lance." A Bread Company worker stopped at the table. "What are you doing back in this corner? Your office is over there." He gestured at a table near the main door.
Lance laughed. "This was the only way I could get a little privacy."
The guy nodded, smiling. "If anybody comes looking, I'll tell 'em you're not in the office right now." He pointed at their cups. "Can I get you some more coffee?"
"No thanks, man." Lance was touched by the gesture. This guy's job was to clear tables, not get refills. "I appreciate it, though."
"Anything for you, man."
Lance watched him walk off and turned back to Pastor Lyles, remembering his question. "Absolutely," he said. "You know I want you to be straight."
"Lance," the pastor said, "I think this is fear talking."
"Fear?" Lance looked at him crosswise. He couldn't recall ever being accused of fear. He was the one who'd taken a bullet for a friend. "I'm just being real. Why would I agree to do something—something as serious as this—if I'm not ready?"
Pastor Lyles leaned in, engaging Lance in his fatherly way. "I don't think I've ever felt ready for anything God called me to do."
"Pastor, come on. You had a PhD from seminary when you started Living Word. The only letters after my name are GED."
"I had some book knowledge. That's true," Pastor Lyles said, "but I didn't have near the experience you've got. I can't count the number of young men you've discipled, many of them right here in your 'office,' over coffee and a cinnamon roll." He continued, "Your high school students bring so many friends that we had to put you all in a bigger space. And that's aside from the fact that you've submitted yourself to discipleship over the course of several years, and you're a confirmed elder." He sat up, spreading his hands. "Son, how much 'ready' do you need?"
Lance sipped his coffee, mulling over the pastor's words. "I don't know how to explain it. Living Word has been my home. I've been able to do everything you mentioned because of you." He added, "Come to think of it, I wouldn't even be a photographer if it weren't for you."
Pastor Lyles chuckled. "Oh, I get credit for that too? The man who couldn't take a decent picture if he tried?"
Lance smiled. "You know what I mean. If you hadn't vouched for me, I wouldn't have gotten a job at the camera shop, which is where I discovered my passion for photography."
"Listen ..." Pastor Lyles leaned in. "You've been able to do everything you've done because of God," he said. "I'm just happy I've had a front-row seat to watch Him work. But as you consider the church plant—assuming you're considering it—I do have an update since we talked last."
"We'd been talking about a plant on the north side of St. Louis."
Lance nodded. That was the one positive. It would be near the neighborhood in which he grew up.
"But we were approached by Church of the Redeemer. They're targeting the same area for a plant and are much further ahead. They want us to partner with them in terms of financial resources, and I think they'll serve that community very well."
Lance looked confused, but Pastor Lyles wasn't finished.
"And wouldn't you know, God put another location on my heart."
Lance frowned slightly. "That's the last place I expected you to say."
"Exactly," the pastor said. "My first thought was, 'No, the inner city needs us, not the people who are well off.' As if they're not sick and in need of a Physician too."
"Pastor, I hear you, but I know I'm not called to lead a church plant in Clayton."
"Why do you say that?"
"I can't believe you forgot," Lance said. "That's where I went to high school for a short while, got in big trouble, and got expelled."
Pastor Lyles shrugged. "I didn't forget."
"How would it look to go back there and start a church? People have long memories. And considering the other things in my past ... it just wouldn't work. If I was called to do something like that, I believe God would make it real clear."
"I would absolutely want you to hear from God about something like this. So I won't say another word. If it's His will, I trust He'll establish it in His timing."
Lance gave him a look. "You used that tactic when you raised your kids, didn't you?"
"All the time," the pastor said, smiling. "And you should know you're like a son to me."
It took a moment for Lance to respond. "That means a lot."
"On another note," the pastor said, "are you still looking for a place to stay?"
"I am. My roomie's getting married next weekend. He said there's no rush, but it's his house, and three would definitely be a crowd. You know of a spot?"
Excerpted from Hidden Blessings by Kim Cash Tate. Copyright © 2014 Kimberly Cash Tate. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Kim Cash Tate has done it again! When I tell you that this book will change your life...I mean it! I think I tapped into every emotion I have. I cried, I rejoiced, I prayed, I hoped, I learned, I loved. I literally finished it at 3:43 am with tears meeting under my chin, hope in my heart and joy in my soul. I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat/bed as I encountered each chapter. So many issues were addressed in this beautiful work. Some issues were some that I honestly didn't really know how to address as a youth minister, but I now have a better understanding and different perspective. I promise you will be blessed by this book. Don't think twice about it...read it for yourself.
Faith and love…even in adversity Kendra Woods is living a great life – attorney at a prestigious Washington, D.C. firm, impending nuptials to the man of her dreams, the start of a lifetime of happiness in her immediate future. She’s living on top of the world. And then her world and life as she knows it comes crashing down as Kendra receives news that changes everything - a terminal diagnosis followed by abandonment by the one she thought she would always be able to count on. Lance Alexander is also living a great life, a purposeful life. After growing up in less than desirable circumstances, and making a few bad choices along the way, Lance is now a charismatic, down-to-earth youth pastor, inspiring others to choose an abundant life. Others in Lance’s life believe that he is ready to take the next step in his pastoral journey, but Lance is awaiting confirmation from above…and reassurance that his past is safely behind him. It is at this time that Lance and Kendra’s paths cross. As Kendra returns home to begin an aggressive treatment plan, Lance just happens to be there, first as a tenant in her father’s home, and later as a true friend who provides the help and support she so desperately needs. The transformation of Lance and Kendra’s friendship, despite Kendra’s diagnosis and uncertain future, as well as the changes within the supporting cast of characters that surround them, will endear readers to this story, while also serving to inspire and encourage. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I have been a fan of Kim Cash Tate’s work since Heavenly Places. The underlying storyline in Hidden Blessings is shocking and may cause readers to initially feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. Yet, readers will soon be reminded that no matter how dire the circumstances may appear on the surface, every cloud has a silver lining and with every season of despair and adversity, there is also a hidden blessing. Excellent and inspiring read!
What a beautiful story of triumph despite scary and tough challenges! Read this book if you want to be inspired!
5 hours later and I'm done. Cover to cover. It was beautiful. You have no idea. It is amazing how effortlessly, seamlessly you were able to transfer the hope your fictional characters had, over to me (the reader). I hoped against hope right along with the rest of them. There was no doubt in my mind...I had already figured out my own "happily ever after". Isn't that just like church folk? God had other plans. I loved it. The characters are so easy to relate to, they read like people you know, or people you want to know. You feel what they feel and hope for the best for them. How awesome it is to see and experience the move of God in the lives of people who so desperately want to know Him more closely. I absolutely love how fluently the author has infused the struggles we all face (and the taboo topics that our young people are confronting today). Keeping it real is what exposes the enemy. Our lies give him a place to hide. After staying up all night reading, I decided that I'm going to have to be stingy with my copy of this book. I never do book clubs because I always just pass my books along. This one was so good that everyone is going have to buy their own it so we can discuss it like normal people. GET THIS BOOK…buy it for your friends, it’s awesome.
This book is truly a love story between us and God. When you are facing something that only God has control over and you can trust that He loves more than anyone can, and will give you His best, life is good. Anyone facing anything will get something from this book.
Kim Cash Tate has never been one to shy away from difficult topics in her past novels. Whether it was adultery, racism, abortion, or suicide, she has tackled them all with honesty and truth, always pointing her characters (and her readers) back to God and Scripture. But even knowing that, I was a little hesitant to start this book, which begins with Kendra--a young woman who "has it all" in the world's eyes--discovering she has terminal breast cancer. Could Tate really turn this premise into a story as spiritually uplifting, moving, and powerful as her past novels? The answer is a resounding YES! Kendra is coasting through her life with ease--great job, dashing fiancé, the perfect wedding being planned--until she has everything that gives her security stripped away. With one diagnosis, she loses her life as she knows it and returns home to a troubled family situation she has tried for years to ignore. It sounds like the worst possible scenario: moving back in with an estranged brother; handling chemotherapy treatment all by herself; and grappling with the recent death of her own mother, and the seeming abandonment of her father. But in Tate's capable hands, this is a story of redemption--of God bringing beauty from ashes. I won't bring in any other spoilers, but I will say along with the issue of terminal illness and everything that entails, Tate also tackles some new "hot button" issues: criminal records, marijuana use, and even homosexuality. All are addressed with compassion and grace, always pointing back to God's Word. I had just finished another book, Jojo Moyes "Me Before You," right before I read "Hidden Blessings." What a contrast! Whereas the former book had a slightly similar premise--a successful young man is in an accident that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down--it takes the reader on a bittersweet journey of love and despair, with [SPOILER ALERT] one of the most depressingly hopeless endings I have ever read. I felt like reading "Hidden Blessings" was the antidote to "Me Before You." Finally, a book that treats impending death with dignity, not Dignitas. Thank you, Kim Cash Tate, for your courageous story-telling and Spirit-fueled writing. I eagerly await your next book!
There are times when you need a getaway and the only place you can go is in a book. If you find yourself in this position you should read a Kim Cash Tate novel, particularly Hidden Blessings. I’m not a big fiction reader but I read Cash’s books because of the relatable characters and storylines and she continued these trademarks with Hidden Blessings. Each character is complex and Cash has them dealing with many issues, including illness, sexuality, infidelity, insecurity, betrayal, unforgiveness, and forgiveness. I like how the book was like real life but not my life so it still felt like a non-fantastic getaway. As a licensed ministered, I found it nice to see the word of God being ministered to and through the characters and I wasn't the one having to do the counseling. It made me laugh, cry, growl and shout. I felt love, sorrow, joy, disappointment, sadness and hope. We may not have cancer like the main character, Kendra, but, just like Kendra, we are all on a journey to trust God and his grace and to enjoy each moment in the midst of whatever seemingly impossible issue we face. This book is excellent and strengthens our faith journey. I would love to see this story on the big screen. It would make a great movie. Thanks, Kim, for allowing the Lord to use you. --Rhonda J. Smith
As young children, we are often encouraged to dream big dreams that will make beautiful lives for us. Dreaming is very easy, because we equate achieving the impossible with just speaking. On the other hand, when we realize that words alone cannot win the medal--we take the necessary actions to pursue those dreams that will secure that beautiful life. But then, we are faced with foreign entities—the unspoken trials of life that have the power to overtake us, leaving us questioning our purpose, our decisions, and those we chose to walk through this life with us. In Hidden Blessings, Kim Cash Tate takes us on a journey through the life of Kendra as she is arrested by the unexpected hardship of life and forced to raise her hands in surrender. As Kendra surrenders her will to GOD, He gives her the fortitude and determination needed to dream bigger dreams, to not only secure, but to really live a beautiful life. You have my guarantee, at by the end of the novel your tears will compel you to look for old journals, think up previous conversations, and dig up buried dreams to chase after each day as though it was your last…to live a beautiful life! D.W.