A Witness in the Devil’s Den

Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Although most bars stir my spirit in a negative way, I occasionally enter one for the food. I don’t know why they have such good cooks. Such was the case at a bar near our cabin, that and the fact that there are few places to eat out in the northern tier. I must admit I felt very uncomfortable the first time we went there to eat. I didn’t even enjoy my meal. Regardless, I agreed to go there several more times and found certain foods to my liking.

This spring Gene offered to take me there again. It was a slow night. The owner/waitress paused at our table for conversation. It led to Gene telling her about my cancer experience. She was most sympathetic as I added the events of the previous year. In 2016, I was treated for melanoma. Gene’s psa began to climb again, eight years after having his prostate removed. He had to have 38 radiation treatments, Our younger daughter had thyroid cancer and had to have the gland and all the lymph nodes on the right side of her neck removed and radiation three months later. My one sister had a benign tumor on her adrenal gland and had to have surgery. My other sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer, had a lumpectomy, and radiation. My mother fell, was placed in a nursing home in November and met Jesus January 5, 2017.

The waitress shook her head in dismay and said, “Some say God won’t give you more than you can bear. I never understood that. It seems to me He gave you and many other people I know more than you can handle.”

I may have read too much between the lines, but I heard a cry of despair and a desire to believe. She looked so puzzled and forlorn. Her heart obviously ached and struggled with why God expected people she cared about to bear up under great hardships.

I agreed with her and told her so. “God does give us more than we can handle. It’s His intent to bring us to a place where we have to give up on our own resources and strengths and fully rely on Him. That was what this journey through cancer wastelands taught Gene and me.”

The waitress smiled and nodded. Her eyes glistened. “That makes a lot of sense to me. I can believe that.”
She seemed to have had a great burden lifted from her shoulders at that moment. And so did I.

Jesus would eat there. He would share His message of repentance, love and grace with her. He wouldn’t judge me for going there either. In fact, I believe He sent Gene and me there that evening to have that conversation with His bewildered child. Too often we limit our area of witness because of self-righteous thinking.

I look forward to going to that establishment now, not because of the food, but because of the waitress and other people I may meet. Who knows. God may have another opportunity waiting for Gene and me to share His wonderful news of salvation.

How about you? What unlikely place have you found opportunity to witness?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Advertisements

Expectations Debilitate

Gray hair is a crown of glory. It is gained in a righteous life. (Proverb 16:31)

Excitement stirred within me when I first felt “stubbies” on my head. The thrill faded quickly when the color of those “stubbies” appeared. White!

No, that’s not right.

“Your hair will most likely come in thicker, curly, and a different color,” they said. I expected dark, auburn maybe, or red even. Golden blonde, as in my youth, appeared in my dreams. But white? Seriously? Silver threads had overtaken my golden strands years ago. I had chosen to enable the gold to maintain its rightful position as the sole heir to the crown on my head, with a little help from Lady Clairol. So, to say my expectations were devastated is an understatement.

Granted curls now enhance my locks. And it is thicker. Two out of three aint bad as they say. But I struggled with white hair. It ages a person. Why the trend for shades of silver caught the attention of young women, I’ll never understand. I want to say to them, “You’ll get there soon enough, honey. And you’ll hate it when you do.” I had heard 60 is the new 40, and I was livin’ it. But thanks to cancer, my age caught up to me and slapped me across the face.

Gray hair maybe my crown of glory, but I sure am not living righteously when I complain.

I need reprimanded for an ungrateful heart. Instead of being thankful for all the blessings the Lord has granted me through this cancer run, I grumble over white hair. The time and energy I waste on fretting about my appearance could, should be spent on rejoicing. I should share all the good things occurring in my life. Let’s face it, if white hair is the only thing I have to concern myself with, live is beyond good.

But expectations dilute praise. Expectations wrestle with joy. Expectations blind us to the value of our true appearance. Expectations debilitate us more than neuropathy.

Just like cancer can destroy our bodies, expectations can destroy our souls. We can fight back.

Here’s how I plan to level my expectations:

  1. Listen to others. Many people have complimented me on my new hair. They can’t all be just trying to be nice.
  2. Focus on the positive. God has enabled me to do everything I could do before. I’m getting stronger every day. I am victorious.
  3.  Accept myself as I am now. Love and acceptance abound toward me from those closest to me, as well as from God. I need to do the same.
  4. Praise instead of whine. Yes, develop an attitude of gratitude. I have much more to be thankful for than to complain about.
  5. Embrace my new normal. Stop comparing myself to others or to the way things were before cancer.
  6. Continue doing what God called me to do—encourage others.
  7. Lift up my eyes to Heaven and remember my destination.
  8. Prepare for that destination and help others prepare for Jesus’ return.

How about you? How do you level your expectations?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Butterflies

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Caterpillars inch their way through their existence, gorge themselves on foliage. It’s all they know. They’re content with life as they know it. They have no clue there is a better way, a better form of living awaiting them. All they can perceive is they most indulge in the things surrounding them, and then, they spin a cocoon. To them, this entrapment is death. They wake up a changed creature in a new world where they have wings to fly.

Like a caterpillar, we seek the pleasures of this world, indulging ourselves in all sorts of delights to satisfy our human cravings. We can’t help ourselves any more than caterpillars can keep themselves from gorging on leaves. It’s caterpillar nature. And seeking to satisfy our own desires is human nature.

Many people never look beyond this world. They have a caterpillar mindset. This is all there is. Enjoy the lusts of your hearts while you can for tomorrow you die.

But those of us who know Jesus have a different mindset. He has created a new creature in us. We look at things anew. Our existence no longer consists of just what this world has to offer. Although we still enjoy and embrace much of the wonders of the world, they are no longer our main focus. We know there is something much grander in store for us.

In a sense, when we submit to Christ, He wraps us in a cocoon. In whom [Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13), Now we consider our new life on earth our cocoon existence. We have put of the old and put on the new. We are sealed in the Holy Spirit. God is creating the image of Christ in us as we live out our lives. We don’t know what we will be when we break free from this entrapment. But we do know we’ll be like Him. For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Philippians 3:20-21).

As He creates Christ’s image in us, He delights in His creation. He sees us differently than we see ourselves.

I developed an acronym, using the word butterfly, to remind you and me of how our Father sees us.

B-beautiful. You are beautiful in God’s eyes because Jesus has cloaked you in His righteousness. Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe (Romans 3:22).

U-unique. You are unique in God’s sight. He has created each of us with unique looks, abilities, and personalities. Just like butterflies, there are no two exactly alike. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works (Psalms 139:14).

T-teachable. God never stops teaching life lessons. Therefore it’s safe to say you are teachable. We never stop learning. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation (Psalm 25:5).

T-Talented. By God’s design you are talented. He has gifted you with special abilities, interests and desires to accomplish your purpose. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4).

E-empowered. The Holy Spirit has empowered you to fight the battles you face in this world and guarantees you the victory. That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16).

R-Radiant. When God looks at you, He sees the glory of Jesus. His Light shines in and through you. You radiate. We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

F-Flawless. God has forgiven you. In His eyes, you are flawless through the work of Jesus on the cross. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).

L-Lowly. Yes, God sees you as a lowly, meek creature. One who needs provisions, protection, and lots of grace. But cheer up. Lowliness was one of Jesus’ earthly attributes (Mark 11:29). Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly (Psalm 138:6).

Y-You. God sees you in your little cocoon. He loves what He sees with all His heart. Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee (Jeremiah 31:3).

How about you? How does God see you?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Cancer Reveals God

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

A friend of mine commented my last blog post: Dandelions, I learned when I began teaching outdoor ed, are not native to North America. The settlers brought them here, because they didn’t know what kinds of greens would be safe to eat here in the New World, but they knew they could eat the greens of dandelions in the spring, and they were prolific. They’re prolific alright. Thank goodness the bees like them, otherwise they’d have one less redeeming quality.

Although I confessed my love for dandelions last week, I understand why others dislike them. Dandelions show up in one spot and, if not dealt with properly, they show up in other areas. They invade and take over until everything is infested. They’re hard to get rid of and seem to always return no matter what you try or how successful you think you are at getting rid of them.

Cancer’s a lot like dandelions. If not treated, the malignant cells multiply and show up in unexpected areas. No matter how successful your treatments are at getting rid of them, the abnormal cells often return with a vengeance.
This dreaded disease has far less good characteristics than do dandelions. In fact, I can only think of one…

Cancer happens so the works of God might be displayed in us. I’ve said it before and if time continues, I’ll say it again and again. God reveals many of His magnificent attributes to us during times of crisis.

Jesus Will Carry You

One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had to date while going through this cancer journey is God’s peace. It enveloped me during my chemo treatments, like the calmness in the eye of the storm. It sustains me now. When I feel overwhelmed about “what ifs,” the Lord reminds me of His peace. He didn’t calm the storm. He carried me through it. He’s not going to leave me now or ever.

How about you? What has God taught you during your storm?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Why I Love Dandelions

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)

Some people consider dandelions an annoying weed that they most destroy at all costs. Our neighbor had been one of those, out every day with herbicides and garden tools killing the plant the moment it popped its tiny head above the ground’s surface.

I, on the other hand, love dandelions.

They mark spring with their bright yellow faces. But that’s not why I love them. They make good wine. But that’s not why I love them. Served with a hot bacon dressing, they make a fine side dish for ham. But that’s not why I love them. They also make mighty tasty jelly. But that’s not why I love them.

                          Dandelion Smiles

I love dandelions because nothing puts a smile on a child’s face more than giving her mother a bouquet of freshly picked flowers. And what kind of flowers are readily available to children? Dandelions.

This week, my daughter and her two-year-old daughter ushered me down memory lane about thirty-five years, as I watched them pick dandelions. Little Lilly’s eyes sparkled with delight with each pluck of a stem just like her mother’s eyes sparkled when she and I picked dandelions so many years ago. She was so proud of her accomplishment. What a cherished memory.

In many ways, dandelions remind me of me.

Cancer has left me with the mark of suffering. I’m not as strong and vibrant as I had been. I don’t have the motivation to do the things I once did. I can’t even walk like I did. I lack stamina. To make matters worse, like a dandelion, my yellow hair has turned white and flighty.

It may be difficult to find beauty and value in my current condition, but my Father loves me with an everlasting love. When He looks at me, His eyes sparkle with delight. He draws me near and holds me when I’m feeling down. Even when I’m feeling good, He’s there admiring me. Oh not because of anything I’ve done or how I look but because of who He is and what Jesus has done for and in me. When He looks on me, His glory shines over me. I’m precious in His sight.

That’s why I love dandelions.

How about you? What flower that speaks to your heart?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

I Don’t Want to Be a Cancer Survivor

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43:5)

March 28 marked the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. The entire month of March was gloomy for me. I could contribute my funk to the weather as some suggested. But the weather usually doesn’t affect my moods so much. And I feel better since Easter even though the sky still displays a grey overcast most days. Therefore, it’s safe to say the weather had little to do with my downcast spirit.

Since I had gone through a depression several years ago due to my thyroid, and now chemo had messed up my thyroid again, my thoughts drifted toward another dark season on the horizon. That is one place I never want to return to. I consulted the doctor and, after blood tests, found out my numbers were all good, ruling out the thyroid theory.

What was causing my blues?

The memories of the past two years, last year more so, darkened my soul and mind, making my days dreary and arduous. I wanted to cry most of the time and had no desire to do anything other than read or sleep.

I had no choice but to ride out the emotional storm and pray it wouldn’t last long.

Throughout the month of March and the first week in April, my memory ran rampant. The doctor’s voice telling me my test came back positive for breast cancer and his statement, “It was a miracle we even found it” replayed in my mind. The oncologist’s encouraging words echoed in my ears as he prepared me for treatment. The vision of Gene almost collapsing when I told him the cancer had metastasized to my lung. The brain MRI, thankfully, showed a sinus infection and nothing else. Then treatment started.

At the time, everything flashed so quickly I had not time to think about what was happening. During the next six months of treatment and the following five months of recuperation, I concentrated on healing, getting my strength and my life back to a recognizable normal. I’m still not there, but it’s getting better. But now, the memories replayed in slow motion as I relived every detail.

Today I’m writing this post, thinking I don’t want to be a cancer survivor. That statement might sound odd to you. But I really don’t. I don’t want to have cancer at all. Yes, I’m grateful beyond words to be as healthy as I am. I have no regrets, not even after having going through chemo. I know it was the treatment God wanted me to have. He has taken care of me through it and because of it. But I still don’t want to be a cancer survivor.

Here’s why:

1. Cancer is for brave souls who can withstand a great deal of discomfort. I’m not one of them.
2. I want to be the prayer warrior who takes them to the throne room and kneels before the Lord and requests healing, peace, and comfort for them.
3. I want to be the arms that wrap around them, giving reassurance that they’re loved and not alone in this battle.
4. I want to be the mouth that speaks comforting words.
5. I want to be the hands that bring needed meals.
6. I want to be the feet that do the shopping when they can’t
7. I want to be the shoulder they cry on.

I don’t want to be the survivor in need, wondering when cancer will put me in that place again. I want to go back to health and no worries.

But we can’t go back, only forward.

I’ll be okay. The funk has past, enabling me to write this post.

God is awesome all ways, always. I love Him. I know He loves me too. He has carried me through. And I remember the peace that enveloped me for the past year. I am blessed and thankful for all He has done, and yes, I’m thankful to be a cancer survivor, even though I don’t like wearing that label.

How about you? What label do you wear that you’re not thrilled about, but thankful for all the same?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

I Looked in a Mirror and What Did I See …

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

I looked in a mirror and what did I see … a monkey looking back at me.

Well, not a monkey exactly. But I do have to laugh at myself. Currently my hair sticks up in all directions. It seems to have a mind of its own and does as it pleases. I wonder how my husband can sit across from me at the table and not burst into laughter.

Sometimes I see a different me though. Sometimes I see a confident, attractive woman who’s ready to face the world head-on. I wonder what life will throw at me today. But it doesn’t matter because the Lord and I can handle it

Sometimes I see an older woman, whom I barely recognize. She’s homely and insecure. And I wonder how Gene can still find beauty in such a body. But he does. He says I have inner beauty my health can’t touch and that’s what he sees when he looks at me.

I squint at the image in the mirror. I still can’t see the inner me.

Why do I focus on my outward appearance when the ones I care most about don’t see me as I see myself?

God says I’m wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139:14). He also says I’m created in His image (Genesis 1:26). That’s pretty special. He says I’m worth dying for (Romans 5:8). That’s almost unbelievable. He says I’m His handiwork—His masterpiece—created to do good work (Ephesians 2:10). If God says all these good things and more about me, why should I question my appearance or demerit His creation in me?

Where do the negative thoughts about my appearance come from?

He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Satan wants to destroy believers. He attacks us physically by means of diseases, broken relationships, financial ruin and intellectually by means of the lies we tell ourselves.

The Lord reminds us to not conform to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). That verse continues with proving God’s will…His good and perfect will. His will is not for us to condemn or belittle ourselves. His will is for us to be confident, battle-ready servants of Christ.

Now I have a choice to make. Do I believe the father of lies or Jesus Christ, who is Truth (John 14:6)? Of course, I choose truth. I have to work on renewing my mind to believe what God says about me and to see what Gene sees in me.

How about you? What lies has the enemy told you in an attempt to destroy your confidence in who you are in our Risen Savior?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks