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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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No Rest for the Weary—or Is There?

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

“Get plenty of rest,” they say as they pump my body full of steroids. Personally, I don’t see how the nurses can keep a straight face while doing so. Anyone who’s been on steroids knows rest is NOT part of the package. Those meds wire you, make you think you can run a marathon—and win without any training.

They also give you Benadryl, which does make you sleepy. Perhaps that’s how the nurses are capable of wearing that straight-faced mask.

Regardless, upon returning home after treatment, I’m fall-asleep-on-my-feet tired. I lie down on the couch with the intentions of sleeping off the effects of the meds. My legs, arms, and mind suddenly kick into high energy mode. I get up. I walk into another room and want to fall asleep on my feet again. So the war between Benadryl and the steroids begins.

Unfortunately, I don’t get enough energy to actually accomplish anything…just enough to stay awake into the wee-hours of the night. I toss and turn until I can no longer lie in bed. I retreat to the living room and, stretching out on the recliner, open the Bible. I read for an hour or so before the steroids concede defeat. When I wake a short time later, I dodder drowsily back to my bed. The steroids seize the opportunity to regain their control. Then I remember Jesus promised to give me rest if I come to Him. Then I pray. He’s faithful. I sleep.

How about you? What motivates you to claim Jesus’ promises?

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

Pink Fingernails and a Three-stranded Cord

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

The slopes of the pit of loneliness and despair are slick and steep. We trudge very close to them when going through deep trials, whether emotional or physical. Everyone else seems to be living his/her life to the fullest—unaffected by and unconcerned about the battle we’re fighting. Even those closest to us, go about their daily routines almost without missing a beat. They plan appointments, family gatherings, and vacations. Meanwhile, those of us in crisis find it difficult to plan our next day.

If we compare our current “norm” to others or even to our previous lives, we plod ever closer to the pit’s edge. All it’ll take is a little nudge from the enemy, and we’ll slide to the bottom.

Splat!

But we’ve nothing to fear. We’re not alone! We have a three-strand cord tied around us with an anchor securely fastened to the Rock.

Here is what my three-strand cord looks like:

  1. SELF—that’s right I have myself. I’m stronger than I think. I have my faith. I know Scripture and trust the Author. Yet as Ecclesiastes 4:12 states, my battle overpowers me. That’s why I need the other two strands.
  2. FAMILY/FRIENDS—so many people have stood with me since my diagnosis. I can’t begin to express my gratitude and sheer amazement. My husband agreed to paint his fingernail pink (the color for breast cancer) to show his support. He chose the nail on his wedding-ring finger. Since then, our pastor, along with countless friends and family members, has done the same. This small act of love holds me fast to the shore of hope and victory.
  3. JESUS—not only is He the third strand, He’s the Anchor and the Rock. He has secured me in His arms. He has given me a future and a promise. He has promised never to leave me ALONE nor to forsake me. All His promises are YES AND AMEN! Even when all else fails, I can count on the One Who Never Fails. My experiences of His presence in the midst of the storm confirm His presence in this one. He reveals His strength in my weakness. His grace is sufficient for me.

These three strands combine to make an unbreakable cord, over which the enemy is powerless.

How about you? What does your three-strand cord look like?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

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

It’s 2017???

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

moms-masterpieceI feel like I’ve slipped on a snow-covered mountain, landed on a heated fanny pack, and slid from November into the middle of January. That fanny pack had no brakes or controls. But it sure melted the snow, creating a fast, slippery path to the bottom of the virtual mountain. The only thing possible to do was hang on and pray God had the reins and no trees or boulders jumped out in front of me.

It was a rough ride. But here I am … standing to tell about it. Praise God for guiding us and making our paths straight.

On November 3, my mother injured her leg, which became sore and infected. The first night in a week she spent alone, she fell. No new injuries occurred. But her long-term degenerative disc disease became agitated. Unable to walk because of the pain, they placed her in a nursing home for rehab. Thanksgiving Day, we brought her home for the family meal. She went into A-fib and spent almost 2 weeks in the hospital until they got her heart rate calmed down enough to send her back to the nursing. More determined than ever to get back on her feet, Mom worked hard during her PT appointments. Progress was slow. But we saw some improvements. Christmas Day, she got out of bed and walked, with the aid of a walker, to the recliner across the room. It was like a marvelous Christmas present God had sent to all of us. She was so proud of her accomplishment.

2:00 a.m. December 26, the call woke me. Mom was having trouble breathing, and they had put her on oxygen. Later that morning, a phone call reassured me her breathing was easier. That evening, another call, this one from my sister, requesting we come into the nursing home. Mom said she was dying and wanted to see us. About 11:00 that night, another ambulance ride took her to the hospital again.

Ten painful days of watching her slowly inch her way into heaven took their toll on my sisters, brother, and me. But her suffering made it easier for us to say goodbye.

During all the heartache and grief, I could see God’s hand working in my mother’s Passover and in my own life.

He loves us all so much. He even takes care of small things that cause us extra stress.

There were two parts of planning her funeral that concerned me more than the rest. 1. The Sunday of her burial was to be bitter cold. And yes, I complained to my Father. I hate the cold. How could I stand outside on a hill for a half hour or so? 2. I didn’t want to pick out her coffin. The thought of going into a room filled with empty coffins made me cringe. I really didn’t want to go there.

Father knew my concerns even before I expressed them to him. He arranged for my pastor to perform the services when the pastor of my mother’s church declined do to previous commitments. Pastor Roger knew nothing about my anxiety about the weather. But he suggested the entire service be done at the church rather than going to the grave site. I felt a God-hug at that moment seriously.

Father also took care of the coffin selection without me even asking. My sister asked the funeral director if we could have the service on Sunday because of two different members of our family starting radiation treatments the next day. The director said, “Yes, on two conditions. One, you have the service at your mother’s church (we intended to do so anyway.) Two because of the rush, would you be okay if we simply did for your mom what we had done for your dad.” That meant they’d pick the coffin for us–the one we had for Dad. We knew these people personally and knew they could be trusted to do it right.

What a relief to put all things great and small in our Father’s hands. He does take care of us and gives us rest when we go to Him.

How about you? How has the Father given you rest and comfort recently?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks