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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

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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

Who? Me?

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Elephants momma and baby

How do you carry each other’s burdens?

The picture that comes to my mind is one picking up a heavy sack, tossing it over his/her shoulder, and carrying if for someone else. Or maybe Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross (Mark 15:21). Or maybe simply praying for a friend in need. Sometimes, prayer is the best way to carry another’s burdens, especially when it comes to circumstances to great for us to change. But sometimes prayer becomes a type of cop-out. I believe in prayer. I also believe God wants us to be the hands, feet, shoulders, backs, arms of prayer. In other words, we are to personify prayer.

There are things only God can fix or change. Never stop praying for help in those areas. But there are things He expects us to do for ourselves and for one another. Thus, He commands us to carry one another’s burdens.

I’ve been a long-time fan of Christians organizing groups to go into disaster-stricken areas to help clean up and fix up. However, none of us has to leave our community to help clean, garden, mow grass, etc. I often thought and even commented that our churches ought to find the needs of our local communities, even people within our congregations and offer assistance. To my shame, I never followed up on it.

Nevertheless, I was delighted to hear our church was moving forward in this type of ministry. How did I find out about it? The young mother who is heading it up contacted me on Facebook Messenger. Not with: Would you like to be on the committee to seek out people in need? Or would you like to help clean Sister Misfortunate’s house? Or would you be able to drive Brother Sicklee to a doctor’s appointment Tuesday? Nope, none of that. She asked me what the church could do for ME. Seriously?

The Father has been teaching me all about humility for the past several months (see Humble Pie). Apparently, I still have some learning to do. Plus, I really want to see this new-to-our-church program be successful. So Gene and I agreed to be one of the first on the list to receive assistance. It’s very humbling to admit you can do the things you used to do like houseclean your kitchen or wash your own windows. But for now, I just can’t do it. I DO need help. And it’s not fair to expect Gene to do it all. They offered to help with the flower beds and houseclean my grooming shop as well. The most humbling part of the deal is seeing the names on the list of volunteers, including our pastor’s wife who also had a bout with cancer this fall. She had surgery and extensive radiation. I feel like I should be cleaning her house.

I’m learning to humbly accept assistance when offered. I’m also learning to see the needs of others and offer my help when possible.

How about you? What is God teaching you about humility?

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Time Out!

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

It’s been three months since my last post! Hard to believe. I went through six months of chemo treatments with little discomfort or anxiety, like super woman or something. About one week after being told I’m in remission, I crashed…mentally, physically, emotionally. I was done.

Apparently, my system had had enough, and that’s totally normal. I couldn’t do much, other than sleep and eat. To make matters worse, I didn’t really care. Sure I wanted to do something, feel productive in some way. But honestly, I didn’t have the energy to care enough to move my body from the couch or to form coherent thoughts. People told me it was part of the healing process and I should relax and allow my body time to heal. So I did right through Christmas shopping, baking, and decorating … guilt free. It’ll be a Christmas easily forgotten. Not meaningless, just uneventful.

Yet, God arranged some pretty amazing treats for our family over the Holiday. We were able to go to an Aaron Shust concert, which was even more special because my older daughter went to college with him. He remembered her, making her super mom in her sons’ eyes (and even her mother’s) for the weekend. Our grandson was accepted into his two top-choice colleges. What a decision he has to make. But what a Christmas blessing. Among the normal Christmas goings-on, there were peace and joy that we rarely experience. Or maybe, we just don’t recognize them. I can’t explain it. I barely noticed it until just now while I was pondering the past month.

There are times we need to rest. Simply rest. Jesus provides that time when we fail to notice our need. He says sit by my side, breathe, trust, heal. That’s it. That’s what He wants us to do … sometimes.

How about you? When was the last time you basked in the Savior’s peace and joy?

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