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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

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If Not For Cancer (Part 2)

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:13)

If not for cancer …

  • I wouldn’t know surrender … at least not the full extent to which God wants me to relinquish to Him. Throughout our lives we surrender to authority. During early childhood, we learn to yield to our parents’ instructions. Next, we learn to follow teachers’ orders. Then we understand government laws and concede to their demands. None of these authoritative figures require total submission. But God does. He wants us to give up control of every aspect of our being. That’s a difficult requirement. We may even assume we’ve done so … until hardship strikes. Somethings, like cancer, are out of our control. We have no choice but to put the situation into someone else’s hands. That could be a doctor, a manufacturer of natural cure products, or a prayer team. These are all beneficial. Still, God is calling. Surrendering my circumstances entirely to Him makes trusting the humans on my team easier.

If not for cancer…

  •  I wouldn’t know commitment … at least not the full extent to which God wants me to devote to Him. Surrender and commitment are like the two tires on a bicycle. We won’t move without a back tire on our bike. Nor will we move in our journey with the Lord without commitment Throughout my treatment, I’ve watched the nurses tend to the patients in their charge. The team is devoted to the task of making each individual comfortable as well as treating them for their cancer. They’re all about making a difficult experience as enjoyable as possible. Their dedication to that task has impressed me and helped me to be more determined to hold fast to my commitment to the Lord. Many obstacles, during the past six months, tested my loyalty to the Lord. Every time something unexpected roared defeat and threatened my progress, I panicked. Then, I heard the Lord’s still small voice, “Surrender.” I need to pedal hard with lots of determination to get past those doubts and fears the enemy hurtles at me to continue the course the Lord has set before me.

If not for cancer …

  • I wouldn’t know joy … at least not to the full extent to which God wants me to experience it. When we learn to

      Jesus Will Carry You

    fully surrender our lives to Him and totally rely on Him to fight all of our battles for us, we rest in Jesus as He intended us to do from the beginning of time. Joy comes in knowing He’s taking care of situations that are out of our hands. Joy comes when we know victory is ours no matter what comes our way. Joy comes when we realize it doesn’t depend on our surroundings but on our surrender to the King of kings. Even when we’re sad or depressed, joy, unlike happiness, remains. It resides with the peace that passes all understanding.

How about you? What has proven the joy unspeakable and full of glory resides in your heart?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Let’s Lament

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. (Lamentations 3:19-20)

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we just have to vocalize all that’s wrong with the world and everything in it. It Today is the Day of Lamentation.

In the past few months, our country has suffered horrific fires in the west, hurricanes in the east, tornados in the middle. We’ve been threatened with nuclear warfare from foreign countries. Civil war pends at the hand of radicals. All authority is questioned and under fire. We’ve seen terrorist attacks from our own countrymen.

My heart breaks for our nation, our children, and all of humanity.

During 2017, my mother passed into eternity, my sister had breast cancer, my daughter had radiation for thyroid cancer, my nephew was treated for leukemia, and currently, I’m going through chemo treatments for breast cancer.

These treatments have taken my otherwise healthy body and made it a wreck. My fingers and feet are numb. My bones ache. My vision’s blurry. I have no energy. I struggle to put two thoughts together to make a paragraph. And even if I manage to do that, I can’t stay awake long enough to actually get it written.

To make matters worse, my best friend’s husband is in critical condition, and I can do nothing to help her. I can’t even sit by her side to comfort her because of my own health issues. And there are my daughters who also have situations I cannot fix for them. I feel weak and oh, so insignificant.

My heart breaks for my friend, her husband, and my own daughters.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, knew the heartbreak of a fallen nation and the anguish caused by the inability to fix his people’s circumstances. He wrote an entire book about it. While penning his lament for Israel, he reached a point where he confessed his hope in the Lord. That’s where our laments should lead us as well.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone (Lamentations 3: 21-26, 31-33).

How about you? What are you lamenting about until it turns your head back to the Lord’s love?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Wigs and Righteousness

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 NIV)

My wig complements me—or so I’ve been told. I feel more like myself with it in place or at least, I look more like myself. When I began wearing it, many people didn’t even realize I had a wig on, it’s that close to my hair color and style. But it’s cumbersome. It’s hot in warm weather. It’s heavier than it looks. And it feels like it’s slipping off my head, so I’m constantly fidgeting with it. I guess it needs an adjustment that I’m not quite getting right.

Even still, it feels almost right … normal. But, it’s only a coverup. Underneath, my head still glistens from lack of hair. The fix is temporary, and at the end of the day, I’m happy to rid myself of the facade.

Nevertheless at the end of the day, I have to once again look at my bald head in the mirror. Likewise at the end of the day, I have to face the fact that my normal isn’t my normal anymore. As much as I’d like to go back to my previous self, I can’t. I’ve been changed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I have a new normal to live with … like it or not.

For the most part, I’m okay with the new me. However there are some changes I’m not too keen on like my lack of hair, weakened immune system, achy bones, and neuropathy, all of which nurses have assured me will reverse in time, after treatments are finished … even the neuropathy.

The emotional and spiritual changes have been more positive than negative and definitely more permanent than the physical discomforts. I don’t expect the emotional or spiritual alterations to reverse, instead, I expect them to grow stronger and more reliable by the grace of God. You see, Jesus’s righteousness covers and heals our defective souls, unlike my wig that only establishes a reasonable facsimile of good health.

I find great comfort in knowing my soul is covered in Jesus’ righteousness that assures me of complete and permanent well-being. It’s my source of strength and peace as I go through my treatments and an uncertain future. This physical body is only a temporary tent. It shows wear and tear with time. It has holes. Eventually, it’s not going to withstand the repairs and be gone. But my soul … my soul will live on. My spirit will soar beyond the sun.

How about you? What has Jesus’ righteousness done for you?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

Surprise! I’m Here

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

At the Sunday school picnic, two-year-old Lilly decided to join the older children in the sandbox. She wasn’t well received. One child quietly vocalized her disapproval of the toddler’s presence. Lilly didn’t care. She plopped yourself down right smack-dab in the middle of the sandbox and shoveled sand on her legs, on her hands, and into buckets. She didn’t mind the other children played around her as though she wasn’t there. She contented herself just being with them. That’s all that mattered to her.

And when the majority of her older playmates descended to the playhouse above the sandbox, Lilly followed, again as happy as a frog during a mayfly hatch. She delighted herself in doing what the others did. One boy brought a chair out and sat it on the deck. Lilly sat in it…very pleased to do so. The boy grimaced and brought out another chair. Lilly tried that one out too. Funny how she never perceived he wasn’t doing it for her.

I suppose Lilly was much too young to understand the others were ignoring her. But she taught me a lesson in contentment that day all the same. You see, there are times I walk into a room, a restaurant, or even a gathering of peers, friends, and relatives that I feel unwelcome, especially since I have cancer. My appearance has changed—I sport a hat to conceal my baldness. People react, most subconsciously I’m sure, but they do react. They give you an undeniable look of puzzlement, of concern, and even of disgust. It’s intimidating. It’s also inevitable and irrepressible on the part of the onlooker. When we’re caught off guard by something unexpected, our faces express our surprise, at least for a second or two, whether we want them to or not.

The problem doesn’t rest on the other people in the room it rests on me. I can either allow their looks of bewilderment to make me uncomfortable and thereby ruin my day. Or I can be gracious. If I accept their reaction as part of human nature, perhaps my easiness will set them at ease as well.

Learning to be content in my present set of circumstances takes time. But I am learning. In the process, I’m developing a stronger, Christ-like character—one in which I can be more accepting of others, whether or not they accept me.

How about you? What set of circumstances is teaching you contentment?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Disappointments Happen—Be Strong and Courageous

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

I visited my oncologist yesterday to get the results of my cat-scan. The lymph nodes with the cancer didn’t show up, which means the chemo wiped it out. GOOD NEWS! The chemo could’ve, BUT DIDN’T, damage my liver, kidneys, and/or heart. I’m as healthy as I was before my treatments. MORE GOOD NEWS! The spots on my lungs and sternum are still there. More good news … the doctor thinks. Since they didn’t disappear, they may not be cancer at all but something I’ve had all my life. MORE GOOD NEWS! However, they could be some other form of cancer, like melanoma since I had a spot of it removed a year ago from my chest. Not so good, but because they haven’t changed or grown in three months, it’s unlikely that they are melanoma or another form of cancer. MORE GOOD NEWS!

This all means I may not be stage-four, breast cancer after all. EXCELLENT NEWS!

     Jesus will carry you

So why am I disappointed? With all that good news, you’d think the doctor would’ve said go home and have a happy life, right? Nope. Instead, I heard, “We’ll start you next round of chemo, once a week for twelve weeks, on Wednesday.”

To which, I said, “The day after tomorrow?”

“Yes.”

“Wait. You said the cancer is gone in my lymph nodes. And you doubt if the other spots are cancer. So why more chemo?”

“We’re still in cure mode,” he said. “If the spots on the lung and sternum were gone, we’d know for sure the cancer had spread. Then we’d go into control mode. But they’re still there. So we have to continue with the cure mode in hopes that the cancer has not and will not go beyond the lymph nodes. We’ll do another pet-scan after these treatments. Then we’ll compare that one to the first one and get a clearer picture of what we’re dealing with.”

Ugh! The storm may have settled somewhat, but it’s still thundering. Like Peter when he stepped out of the boat to walk on the tempestuous sea with Jesus, I took my eyes off the Master when I heard more chemo and focused on the title wave threatening to engulf me. I panicked and began to sink in an emotional undercurrent.

Instead of concentrating on the unpleasantness of the upcoming chemo treatments, I have to re-surrender my life to the Divine Healer. He guided me through the previous three months of extensive treatments. He kept the side-effects to a minimum. He used the chemo as missiles to blast the cancer out of my lymph nodes and prevented it from damaging any of my organs. I can trust Him even more now … yes, I really can.

How about you? What has Jesus done for you in the past that will help you face your next storm?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

The Right to Cry

Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. (Psalm 6:2)

July 3, I cried nearly all day. Couldn’t stop myself. I was facing my last chemo treatment with a great deal of reluctance. Each treatment thus far had brought more nausea, dry-mouth (accompanied by nasty, muddy-metal taste), and other discomforts that lasted longer than the previous treatment. I simply did not want to go through it again, not knowing what the side effects would entail.

So I wept. I pleaded with the Lord to stop this madness, to tell me I didn’t have to go through it one last time, to rescue me.

Finally sometime that evening, I recommitted the situation to the Lord. I knew there was no way out. I had to face the gauntlet one more time, come what may. And trust. Isn’t that where true faith lies—trusting without knowing what’s beyond the next summit?

July 5, I walked into the clinic with the most cheerful disposition I could muster. Gene’s presence brought comfort even though we talked little. He was there. And so was my Father. I wasn’t as much aware of Father’s presence at the time … a little preoccupied with my surroundings I suspect. But I know He was holding me closer than Gene could’ve.

Here’s what He did for me the week of my final treatment:

  1. Very little side effects. This was the mildest of all my treatments. God wrapped His loving arms around me and kept the nasties away. I’m believing the medication accomplished even more because of it.
  2. The Saturday after treatment, my family walked in a march against breast cancer. What support and love! Plus, we had a picnic at my sister’s house afterward. The event boosted my spirits tremendously.
  3. The next day, almost every lady in our church wore a hat! Their expression of love and support … for ME … overwhelmed me. At the onset of my diagnosis, I told my daughters I thought it’d be cool if someone would have a hat party for me. No one in the church knew that. I can’t begin to tell you how much those ladies showed the love of our Father to me that day. I pray I never forget the power of His love through His faithful daughters.

More tears flowed that Sunday than on the previous Monday. For the past two weeks, I sang His praises and cried … because of His merciful love He showed me through this last treatment.

So, why do we hold back tears as though they’re forbidden? Why do we choke on them as though they’re shameful? Why do we mask them as though they represent weakness?

We have the right to cry out to the Lord. He hears and answers in unexpected ways.

How about you? How has Father responded to your cries?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks