by Kate Wenzel
NOTE FROM WM: Sometimes a photo just grabs you in way that changes you. That's what happened when I stumbled across this captivating shoot by Kate Wenzel. As you'll see, the photos speak for themselves. Love, Allie
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Suffering has a way of stripping you of everything. Everything but the things that matter most- your family, your dearest friends, your relationship with your Creator. As I slowly approached Kenzie—these thoughts were wandering through my head and in my heart—I knew that the next few moments were going to be transforming. As she drew closer, I didn’t notice her hairless head. I saw only her radiant beauty—beauty that comes from deep within a soul who has looked into the eyes of trials and clung all the more to her Savior. Beauty that is so authentic that it spills over to all those around her.
Kenzie is in many ways a typical teenager: weeks away from Prom, months away from graduation and excited about a future at College next fall. But most 18-year- olds haven’t faced cancer twice. At the tender age of 16, Kenzie was diagnosed with Hogkins Lymphoma. Through months of treatment, she received a clean bill of health and continued making plans for her bright future. Then, just weeks ago, this sweet girl was diagnosed again. As she began her chemo treatments and lost her hair again, dozens of friends surrounded her in the most powerful way—by shaving their heads.
I was sitting in my office when I first saw the images of Kenzie helping to shave the hair off her friend’s head. When it appeared on my Facebook homepage, I was moved. And as I read more of her story, I was immediately stirred within and felt the Lord call me to help. After a moment, I realized that photographing Kenzie and her closest friends might give this lovely girl something fun to look forward to in the midst of countless treatments. I connected with her and we arranged a time and place. But I wasn’t prepared.
I wasn’t prepared to be the one who was encouraged, the one given a real glimpse of joy and peace in its truest form. Within moments of meeting and beginning our session, we were all laughing and embracing this opportunity fully. Kenzie and her friends soaked up the time to get images capturing their friendships and love. I realized that I would walk away from this time profoundly changed.
I am not sure if Kenzie realizes the impact she has on others. Her attitude in the face of cancer, her strength, her smile—all I could do is grin as the tears flowed and I thanked God for allowing me to cross paths with this beautiful girl and her wonderful friends. All I can do is pray for her healing and recovery and know that this girl is loved and that she loves back deeply. All I know is that she makes each person she encounters better for knowing her. How many people can truly say that?
In all of this, Kenzie has shared that her joy, her source of courage in the midst of this, comes from her faith and relationship with Christ. Suffering does have a way of stripping everything from us; but if we “consider it joy” while facing it, look into the face of our great and faithful God, and praise Him still, we are also transformed into something more beautiful because of—not in spite of—these trials.
Here are some of the images from our session...
How does Kenzie's story influence your view of beauty, suffering and/or joy?