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Bald–Bitter or Better

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).

The nurse told me the type of chemo treatments I’m having would cause my hair to fall out. She was fairly accurate in the timing. Two weeks after my first treatment, I noticed the beginning of the end of my hair. By Wednesday, I swiped handfuls of hair off the back of my head. I decided to shave it off rather than watch it fall out.

Surprisingly, I didn’t even cry while I cut my hair then ran clippers over my scalp. The prayers of all my family and friends kept me standing tall and brave at that time. Wednesday was a good day. I felt a sense of accomplishment and relief.

Thursday, however, all the expected emotions burst out of their cage and tumbled down my checks in the form of tears. Losing your hair because of chemo treatments is a bitter pill to swallow, even for men I’ve been told by some who’ve gone through it. Contrary to popular believe, the struggle is not so much about appearance and vanity.

The struggle stems from the outward sign of what’s happen inside my body. You see, other than the week of treatment, I don’t feel sick. I cannot even wrap my mind around the disease. But now … now that I’m bald, I can no longer live in the state of denial. Every time I look in the mirror, I face the monster living inside me.

Never too Many Hats

As dismal as that all sounds, I realized I was not without a covering. I had received a wig from the American Cancer Society a week before my first treatment. My sisters gave me a beautiful straw hat. My younger daughter gave me a white straw hat. My older daughter crocheted me a hat. A friend also offered to crochet me a hat. One cannot have enough head coverings at a time like this. Although I adore my wig, hats cheer me up and help me feel good about my appearance when it’s just too hot to wear the wig. I’ll never have to step out in public or even in my own backyard feeling shamefully exposed thanks to all the love people have shown me by providing hats for me to adorn myself.

As grateful as I am for the hats, I rejoice even more in my salvation through Jesus the Messiah. When the monster I’m facing threatens to unleash my bitter emotions, I’m going to remember Jesus’ beautiful robe of righteousness covering me so that I can approach God’s throne without fear. I know He’ll change the bitter into better as I praise Him for His mercy, grace, and love.

How about you? How have you changed from bitter to better through your trials?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Proactive: Partners with God

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,  And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (John 9:6-7)

I apologize for my lack of contributing to this blog.

Since my last post, I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. The first diagnosis was difficult enough to hear. But then, it got worse. A pet scan showed the cancer had passed through my lymph nodes (our filtering system) into my blood stream. From there it invaded my lungs. The spots are small, which means it’s treatable and controllable.

I began chemo May 2.

Needless to say, a lot of emotions have been boiling up in our house. But God is faithful and is with me every step of the way.

When the doctor told me the biopsy tested positive for cancer in my lymph nodes, he said “it was a miracle they even found it. It never would’ve shown up on a routine mammogram.” Which I’ve had every year for the past fifteen years, by the way. My first thought was God has a plan.

He has surrounded me with a “cloud of witnesses” in every doctor’s office I’ve visited thus far, as He compels me forward through chemo treatments. Many believers ask why I’m going through medical treatments when God has the power to heal. Yes, I believe with all my heart that God could heal me immediately without an oncologist’s intervention. But which takes more faith to believe God can when He does? Or to still believe He can even when He doesn’t?

I’m not a super-saint by anyone’s standards. I’m simply trusting my Father to do what is best for me and what will bring Him the most glory. While I prayed about this, He showed me something quite amazing. During His earthly ministry, Jesus did not heal everyone who asked immediately. He told ten lepers to go and do whatever the law required. As they walked away in faith, they were healed (Luke 17:11-14). Similarly, Jesus made a mudpack, smeared it on a blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash at the pool of Siloam. The man obeyed in faith and returned seeing (John 9:6-7).

Jesus wants us to be proactive in our healings and every other aspect of our lives. Yes, He can do all things. And He does them well. But He, more often than not, expects us to take an active part in His work within us. So I go to the center for my treatments. I try to follow the doctor’s advice. I even signed up for a Look Good, Feel Better class next month. But more than anything, I’m following Jesus’ instructions and trusting Him to heal my body, to strengthen my faith, and to hold me close when I’m overwhelmed with the process.

How about you? How are you actively participating in the Father’s work in your life?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Not by my Faith, but by His Faithfulness

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

lab-puppy-4-webThere are times when we have no choice but to trust. Trust doctors to have steady hands and the knowledge needed to perform their tasks. Trust God to guide the doctors and to hold our loved ones when we can’t.

My faith and trust has gotten plenty of exercise this year. In February, I was diagnosed with melanoma. It was in very early stages…an easy fix. God’s faithfulness brought me to the dermatologist that day.

In April, Gene’s prostate cancer appeared on the charts again…eight years after he had his prostate removed. Again early detection made the process of 38 radiation treatments doable. His recent blood work proved the procedure successful. God’s faithfulness showed the doctors Gene’s need for treatment in early stages of cancer.

Also in April, my sister became very ill. At first, they thought she had food poisoning. However, tests showed a growth on her adrenal gland. They removed both the growth and the gland…no cancer! Again, God’s faithfulness led my sister to the hospital for early diagnosis.

All of these events tested my faith and exercised my trust. But I have not had my faith tested as strongly as it has been since May. My younger daughter Rachel was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Like the other issues mentioned, her diagnosis came through a rather unexpectedly. Her allergies were out of control this spring so she decided to see a specialist. He checked her thyroid and told her to see her family doctor because it was hard on the one side. Sure enough, she had cancer.

September 26, they removed her thyroid and the lymph nodes on the right side of her neck. The tight quarters in the prep room made her husband and her father uncomfortable so I stayed with her until they took her to the OR. As I walked back the vacant corridor to sit with the men in the waiting room, my spirit sank. I had left my baby in the hands of two strangers to perform a six-hour procedure. The only thing I could do was pray. But that truly is the best thing to do. God is faithful in all His ways. He washed me with peace of mind.

Rachel’s surgeon is very pleased with the success of the operation. She’s regaining mobility in her neck and is growing stronger every day.

I’ve spent the weekdays with her and her small children for the past three weeks, thus the reason I’ve neglected my blog. Sorry. Somethings take precedence, while other things fall to the wayside.

Your prayers for Rachel as she continues to heal and as she faces radiation later are greatly appreciated.

How about you? What has exercised your faith and trust recently?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enough with the Surprises Already (Part 2)

Let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance [of eternal salvation]. (Romans 5:3-4 AMP)

Bear with Me

Gene and I enjoy the cabin for different reasons.

He goes to work. He mows in the summer and shovels snow in the winter. He tinkers with maintenance jobs. But mostly, he either hunts or checks his trail cams depending of the time of year. Regardless, he spends a good part of his time traipsing around in thigh-high brush, searching for signs of deer and bear, and breathing the fresh mountain air.

This trip appears no different. He departs from the cabin about 5:00 a.m., leaving Hunter and me still sound asleep.

I awake about two hours later, pour myself a cup of coffee, and start typing away, content to have the cabin to myself.

Hunter raises an eyebrow, nestles deeper into the couch, and dreams on.

I finish my synopsis about 9:15 as the truck roars in the lane. Hunter jumps off the couch and, in anticipation of his favorite human’s entrance, stands at the door, trying desperately to wag his crooked, stubby tail.

Gene enters all grins and hands me the cards from his trail cams. “I got some beautiful pictures. We’ll look at them after breakfast.”

I follow him to the door.

He steps outside and says, “Oh my word!”

I step out and gasp, not once, but twice. Once for each flat tire on the passenger’s side of the truck. We quietly proceed around the other side and breathe a sigh of relief. Two flat tires are enough for one trip.

Gene stands in front of the truck, moves slowly around it, accessing and obviously praying.

I stand to the side and pray.

Everyone in the other cabins has gone on a four-wheeler trail ride. Gene walks up the road to the landowner’s house. He returns in another truck and explains the landowner’s wife is willing to take us to the garage to get tires. He wants me to go along—so much for writing.

If you’ve ever been in northern PA, you know the towns are few and far between, and businesses are even more scarce.

About 30 minutes or so later, we arrive at the garage. Gene discusses the options and decides to get four new tires since the dealer gives us a good bargain. Plus, we need new tires anyway, no sense in buying used then coming home and buying new.

We get back to the cabin about 1:40. Gene changes the tires and makes supper. Who needs breakfast? Nevertheless, Gene passes his test on patience with flying colors.

By bedtime, I complete my synopsis, a Bible study lesson I’m writing, and half of the bear painting above.

All is well, until around 2:00 a.m. when Hunter barks and growls at something outside. I’ll tell you about that next time.

How about you? How have you managed your latest surprise?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Enough with the Surprises Already (Part 1)

Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)

Surprise!

unexpected guestsFriday evening as we approach our cabin, a car has taken up residence in our yard along with its driver and passenger, who are sitting in beach chairs, sipping wine coolers, and enjoying a campfire.

If you know me, you know I need solitude … not company at the cabin.

Gene looks at me before climbing out of the truck and says, “Who is that?”

Too befuddled to speak, I shrug.

“Hey! I haven’t seen you in years. How are you? Brenda, this is one of my hunting buddies …”

Turns out the intruder had been invited several times to hunt, but hadn’t been there for about 5 years. He and his fiancé had dropped his daughter off at a college in northwestern PA. Our cabin was closer than traveling home. So they thought they’d spend the night. I guess, since he knew where we kept the extra key, he assumed he didn’t need permission to use it.

Excuse me—not your cabin. There’s a name for this. It’s called trespassing. I say little and make my way into the cabin, laptop in tow.

Another Surprise

Gene, however, offers them our Bar-BQ sauce for their hot dogs, sits with them all evening, chatting about old times, and shows them pictures he’s captured with trail cams.

Meanwhile, I’m in the cabin, screaming in my spirit—“Why are they still here?” Yes, I am an introvert. I thrive on solitude. Gene comes in and assures me they’ll be gone in the morning.

In the morning? Seriously? The morning begins at 12:00 a.m. and ends at 11:59 a.m. During what part of that 11 hours and 59 minutes do they intend to depart? Gene gets up at 5:00 a.m. to check his trail cams. That means I’ll be alone with these people for … . Will they expect coffee, eggs, pancakes, and pleasant conversation? Yikes! I’m not prepared for this.

By now I’m in tears. I know I should be more like Jesus and Gene, accepting the uninvited guests with open arms. Show them kindness. Show them hospitality. But all I want to do is show them the road.

The Biggest Surprise

So I pray for forgiveness. I get an unexpected answer as I sense the Lord speak to my spirit.

What did you come here for?

I came to spend some time with you, Lord, to write, and maybe get a painting done.

So why aren’t you doing that?

I pause. This isn’t a test of hospitality. It’s a deterrent to keep me from doing what I’d come to do. If I let my emotions control the situation, I’ll waste precious writing and painting time. Peace floods my soul. I get busy on my synopsis and get it about halfway finished before bedtime.

The woman comes in for blankets. They’ve decided to sleep outside—under the stars or in their SUV, I’m not sure. Gene hands her an armload of blankets and pillows. I offer her sleeping bags for extra cushion and tell her they’ll be more comfortable outside because it’s so stuffy in the cabin, especially in the bedrooms with their small sealed windows. In the summer, humidity is almost unbearable back there.

I wake up the next morning about 7:00 a.m. to find the blankets, sleeping bags, and pillows on a tidy pile on the coach closest to the door. I have the cabin and a couple hours to myself. I finish my synopsis and two cups of coffee.

Then Gene comes back from his mountain excursion with another surprise. I’ll tell you about it next time.

How about you? How have you handled one of life’s surprises?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

It Left a Scar

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29 & 32)

Experiences Drives a Deeper Understanding

Experience Drives Deeper Understanding

Sunday was an exciting day for me. I drove our pickup truck, not once, but three times. We’ve had this truck for 3 years, and I only drove it one other time. Before this truck, we had another truck for 16 years, which I only drove once or twice.

So why the truck-driving reluctancy you ask.

It’s not so much the size of the vehicle. I drove Gene’s pickup truck a lot when we first got married. But almost forty years ago, a car barreled off the bypass into our truck at an estimated speed of 55 or 60 miles an hour. It knocked the left front wheel off the axil. Amazingly, no one was hurt, including my 18-month-old daughter. Did I mention we didn’t have the fancy-schmancy car seats for small children they have nowadays? Our guardian angels were working overtime that day for sure

With or without angels guarding me, cars and trucks, approaching me from a left-side street panicked me for years. And obviously, I still struggle with getting behind the wheel of a larger-than-a-sedan vehicle.

It amazes me how incidents like that accident continue to affect our lives decades later. We can’t prevent mishaps, tragedies, or trauma. Nor can we eliminate the scars they leave. However, we are commissioned to do whatever we can to minimize the impact of such events in one another’s lives. Unfortunately, by our words, actions, and attitudes, we sometimes contribute to or are the cause of someone else’s lifelong struggles.

We can’t take back our thoughtless words. We can’t undo our inconsiderate deeds. We cannot erase the past.

Nevertheless, by God’s grace, we can start today to show genuine compassion. Speak edifying words. Touch others with Christlike healing hands.

How about you? How can you minimize someone else’s pain today?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

Nothing Can Stop Our God

Impressive Biblical Figures

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Zebra The first half of 2016, health issues have targeted my heart. I was diagnosed with melanoma. Gene’s prostate cancer came back. A few other concerns trouble me, which I’m not at liberty to disclose at the moment.

Thus, far the prognosis and treatment has been effective for my melanoma. Gene begins the first of 38-consecutive, radiation treatments next week. His prognosis, also, is very favorable. Praise the Lord. Even so, please keep him in your prayers. The other matters have just become known, and may or may not be serious. Time will tell. God knows about them and prepares the path for all of us. We just need to follow and trust His judgment, right?

Oh but it’s so very hard to hold God’s hand and simply trust. My mind wonders into the “what-if zone” and the “why-is-this-happening-now district.”

Recently when I pray about all the struggles different members of my family are facing, the Lord reminds me of several people in the Bible whom he loved, had plans for, and took through deep trials to accomplish those plans.

I’m learning, through biblical examples to trust God’s plan. Whether the difficulties we face turn out the way we’d like them to or end up in the worse possible way, God’s promises hold true. He never goes back on His word. He has not promised any of us a life without trials. In fact, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). He didn’t leave us hanging, however. He concluded His discourse with, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If we’re trusting in His promises, we can face our trial with confidence. Our hope, our vision is not of this world, but of His kingdom. Therefore, we can become faithful just like the people mentioned in the Bible.

What impresses me with many people mentioned in the Bible is their determination to hold on to their visions—their God-given purpose—against all odds.

Here are a few examples:

God revealed to Joseph in a dream that he’d rule over his brothers someday. That vision calmed Joseph in the pit. That vision kept him from temptation. That vision delivered him from prison. That vision enabled him to forgive his brothers.

Ruth, a foreigner, caught the vision of a loving God from her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth’s vision compelled her to leave her own family and follow Naomi back to Bethlehem. Ruth’s vision led her to Boaz’s fields to glean the leftover grain as provisions for Naomi and her. Ruth’s vision motivated her to seek a kinsman-redeemer in Boaz.

David’s vision, involving his knowledge and relationship with God, defeated bears, lions, and a giant. David’s vision gifted him with music to sooth the disturbed king’s soul and eventually, delivered him from the king’s wrath. David’s vision won wars, set him on the throne, and brought the arc of the covenant back to Jerusalem. His vision opened the path of humility and brought him back to God.

How about you? How is your vision actively working in your life?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

P.S. If you thought last week’s mystery sketch was a zebra, you were absolutely correct.