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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

 

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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

Celebrating the Abundant Life

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 KJV)

Yes, I am celebrating the abundant life, in spite of my current health issues and fragile bank account. Unlike popular beliefs, the abundant life Jesus promised doesn’t center on health or wealth. If it did, we’d eventually lose it, simply because our bodies are temporary and feeble. And Jesus never intended for us to lose that abundant life. It begins here on earth and extends throughout eternity.

Besides if Jesus’ idea of the abundant life meant health and wealth every one of His disciples missed out. None of them enjoyed a luxurious life.The beloved John, for an example, was exiled to the island of Patmos because of his testimony. All the other disciples were executed for believing Jesus was the Messiah. Paul lived with a physical infirmity and imprisonment. How did any of their lives line up with the abundant life many Christians claim Jesus wants for us today?

While we’re at it, consider all the believers in third-world countries; does Jesus promise not apply to them? How about all the dear saints you know who have serious health issues, have their conditions disqualified them?

The real problem lies not in Jesus’ promise for an abundant life but in our interpretation of His meaning. The wealth and health doctrine stems from an earthly view of our temporal lives. We want to live this life without the struggles that come with it. Eliminating financial difficulties and declining physical conditions would certainly ease the pains of this world considerably. But is that what Jesus promised?

Luke 12:15 states something entirely different: Then he [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Now either Jesus contradicted Himself in these two statements, or we’ve misconstrued His meaning. I’m betting on the latter.

So if Jesus’ promise of abundant life does not refer to health and/or wealth, what was He promising?

  1. Contentment in all situations. Paul found this to be true, even from prison. He wrote: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12).
  2. Peace that passes all understanding. Jesus gives us peace even in our most difficult situations. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  3. Joy unspeakable and full of glory. When Jesus’ peace permeates our lives, we have unspeakable joy. Nothing can disrupt that kind of joy. Now read what Peter said on the topic of joy, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:7-9).

These are just three of the aspects of the abundant life Jesus promised. Whether you’re rich or poor, the picture of health or crippled with disease, these benefits never fade away. They grow stronger and carry the promise of eternal life.

Jesus’ reference of an abundant life was never the same as our mortal minds imagine. It was far more superior, more valuable, and more enduring. His plans and promises always are.

How about you? How are you celebrating your abundant life in Christ?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

Words—the Power to Change Lives

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:15-16)

My hatA couple of weeks ago, I wore this hat to my doctor’s appoint and received several favorable comments. Later that day, someone made a negative dig. It shattered the positive remarks—all of them. I wrestled with my response for hours. Why had one ill-mannered knock overridden the many positive reinforcements? Why do we take such disagreeable tones into our spirits and allow them to push out what brings peace and assurance? Why did I?

It took a lot of self-talk to overcome the potential destruction. Did the offender mean to cause me hurt? No. I really don’t think so. Although her remark stabbed me like a knife, she thought she was being funny. I held back tears as I struggled to put things into proper perspective.

Here’s the thing:

  1. This person has always enjoyed making crude remarks just to get a reaction from her target (by her own admission). I had to consider her nature.
  2. Forgiveness is the only key to unlocking the chains that can enter our spirits from such attacks. I had to count her as innocent … as though she didn’t know what she was doing.
  3. I had to reassess all the positive input. Sure, some people give compliments as unthinkingly as others give insults. Nevertheless, there are just as many sincere people who, not only want to make us feel good, but truly are pleased or impressed with our choices of style. I worked hard to latch onto those comments, allowing them to nurture my spirit instead of permitting the condemning statement to tear me apart.

I need to move on from this experience, keeping in mind I’m not the only one sensitive to sarcastic comments. And my friend isn’t the only one prone to make them. I can’t change her. But I can bridle my own tongue.

God has given us a tremendous power and responsibility through words. Whether written or spoken they can destroy or build a life.

I want to be a builder.

How about you? How can you build someone else’s life with your words?

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

Worth the Wait

The Lord does not delay [as though He were unable to act] and is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is [extraordinarily] patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 AMP)

DSCN5168A week without a kitchen sink constitutes an interesting lifestyle to say the least. Our new cupboards are in place and functional—we put the knobs on them this evening. I even put a few items in their new homes. The microwave, stove, and refrigerator make it somewhat feasible to prepare meals. But the lack of a counter top and sink creates some difficulty in cleanup as well as food preparation.

Nevertheless, the dismantled kitchen is taking its toll me. I can’t find ¾ of our pantry supplies and utensils. I know everything is in boxes in the basement … but which box? The disorganization of that part of our house has flooded into the remainder of the house, including my brain. I find it more difficult than usual to concentrate, plan my day, and shift through priorities. Thus, my patience is growing thin. I’m anxious to see the finished product. I’m anxious to have full use of my kitchen. I’m anxious to reorganize. I’m anxious to have some sort of normalcy back in my life. I don’t want to wait for the contractor to come back to do the final adjustments. I don’t want to wait for the designer to install the counter top and sink. I don’t want to wait for the back-ordered faucet to arrive. I know it’ll be worth the wait. But still … I WANT IT FINISHED NOW!

In Jesus' EyesLet’s face it, remodeling isn’t the only aspect of life in which I grow impatient. When crisis strikes, God begins a new work in me, and I feel like a kitchen in the remodeling process. He has to tear out old habits, the shabby attitude, and the broken emotions before He can install a Christlike image in my heart.

Reconstruction takes time. My usefulness seems limited, almost dysfunctional even. Now and then, I sense His adjustments as His works. But I wonder if anyone notices the changes He’s making in me. I wonder if I’ll ever love and forgive others as God has loved and forgiven me. I wonder if I’ll ever get the hang of being Christlike.

Yeah, I know it’ll be worth the wait. But still …

How about you? How is God remodeling your heart into the image of Christ?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks